Thursday, May 11, 2017

On Lilly's unconscionable insulin price increase

There’s a story about a man who was worried about his wife. She was losing her hearing and she refused to go to the doctor. The man had a close friend who was a doctor and he asked for his advice. The doctor advised him to talk to her while her back was turned and then see how close he needed to get before she would respond. This would tell him how significant the hearing problem was.

The man returned home and sure enough he could see his wife across the house; her back turned to him, doing the dishes.

At the doorway he sang, “Honey, I’m home!”

The wife did not respond.

A step forward.

“Honey, I’m home!” 

The wife continued with the dishes. She did not respond.

A few steps forward.

“Honey, I’m home!” He said hopefully.

Again, no response.

Four steps forward this time.

“Honey, I’m home.” He said firmly, resolutely.

No response.

Taking three more steps, standing right behind her, he whispered, defeated, “Honey. I’m home.”

At which time the wife whirled herself around and yelled, “And for the fifth time. I KNOW!”

Sometimes, it’s hard to tell where the problem lies.

Apparently, Lilly Diabetes is having that problem right now.

They are looking outwardly at everyone else, blaming everyone else for the prescription pricing problems we face in the United States, when really; they have a serious problem of their own.

Their problem is they aren’t taking responsibilities for their actions.

“We have no choice. We have to work this way. The PBM’s made us. It’s how the United States Healthcare System works.”

But we all know Lilly Diabetes is a business. And the bottom line comes first. I don’t care what they say.

Last month I sat in a room full of Lilly executives and they looked me in the eye and made it very clear they know what a travesty insulin pricing is. They KNOW people are suffering. They KNOW it’s a problem. They sat empathetically and listened to our stories, tears in their eyes, nodding their heads. Saying they hear every word. There are individuals and families who can’t pay for insulin. People have died because insulin is too expensive…

Which makes yesterday’s Lilly Insulin price increase all the more disgusting.

The fact that they KNOW their actions are yielding unconscionable consequences, and yet…they continue on the same path with those same actions, taking no responsibility for the havoc that lies in its wake?


Blame the game, not the player?

Sorry Lilly, you agreed to play. You made a conscious decision to go out onto the field, and you are making a hefty profit because of it. Your agreement with PBM’s is advantageous for PBM’s, yes…but it is just as advantageous for you…. or you would not be playing.

Really, how much does it cost to produce a vial of insulin?

Humalog has been around for 20 years. It is not the newest model. It isn't the hope diamond. It is life support for millions of people with Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes. (For my children? Take insulin or die: no choice.)

And Canada pays $35 a vial? You can’t tell me it costs more than that to produce a vial, or you wouldn’t sell it to them for that.

Lilly is taking advantage of the system in the United States. Do they glory in the loopholes? Do they revel in the fact that the government has done NOTHING to stop the gouging going on?

But it’s not Lilly’s fault. They can. If it is legal, and they can…why not? (#sarcasmfont)

When pricing its products, Lilly takes into account "the value they bring to patients and the healthcare system, as well as current marketplace conditions and the need to fund the development of the next generation of innovative medicines," (Lilly spokesman Mark) Taylor said.

They are pricing according to our desperation for life, and it makes me sick.  What is the value of life? Lilly is going to find out. How far can they go? They know we will go as far as we can to keep the ones we love alive, so they will continue their path.

They are a business after all. 

This entire insurance game needs to stop. A friend on Facebook: “We had a baby last year. Uncomplicated birth, the cash price was $3200. The hospital refused to let us pay that because we were insured. The insurance price was $8000 and our deductible is $10000 so we paid more than twice as much just because we are insured.”

Hospitals, providers, and pharma provide inflated pricing just to make the insurance companies feel like they are getting a deal. They are blind to the consequences to the patient, and their financial wellbeing.

Also, what if we fought to buy our drugs over the border? I know it would be a temporary win, but if we stop playing the game here, and buy from Canada or Mexico, maybe we can force their hand to incite change.

Yes, as stated in my last blog, going to our employers and asking to put insulin on the preventative drug list so Insulin isn’t subject to deductibles is great. It can be an immediate help.

But it’s a Band-Aid.

If insulin companies continue to inflate their prices how will any of this help? Lilly’s rising of their prices RIGHT after our “Insulin Price Workshop” is a slap in the face. And it’s conceivable they will raise their prices again within the year.

We aren’t the ones with the problem, Lilly. You are.

Take responsibility for the clusterf-bomb you are helping to create.

Take responsibility for the lives that are in ruin because of your decisions.

Diabetes is hard enough. You’ve succeeded in making it harder.

My children’s futures lay in your hands and you are gambling with their lives in honor of your bottom line.

I’m going to tell my story to all that will hear. I urge my readers to do the same.

“Honey. We’re home.”


  1. And unfortunately....we now wait for the coming Novo Nordisk price increase news release.


  2. Meri, you are such a talented writer. Your message comes through loud and clear. I hope you and your four sons are well, and that you will always have the insulin that your family needs.

  3. I agree with everything and every feeling you said it with. Shame on you Lilly.

  4. I hear you!!!! Loud and clear!!! It seems that the meeting with Lilly was just a PR thing that they hoped would be a smoke screen for the price increase. I respect you so much for never backing down from having your voice heard...even if they aren't listening...pretending to listen....or just extremely hard of hearing! I guess we just have to talk louder...

  5. Thanks for saying what I was thinking before that meeting. Bad PR for Eli Lilly, but my guess is they will be happy to endure a week or so of outrage in order to make even more money on 20+ year old drugs. Thanks for speaking your mind and advocating for me and your boys.

  6. Yes to all of this! I know it can't possibly cost them anywhere near as much as they charge to produce a vial of insulin because my dad remembers when I first began using Humalog, right after it first came was approximately $25 or $30 a vial. In 20 years they should have figured out how to make it for a cheaper price....and honestly, they probably have. But they've figured out the not-so-secret to us with diabetes: we need it to live and will pay what we have to, to get it, because what other choice do we have? It's a total cash-cow for them, at the expense of people with no choice.... They really should be disgusted with themselves. I'm sorry to hear they actually met face to face with patients and advocates about pricing and then STILL did this. It needs to stop. If anything they need to be announcing price drops....

  7. Insulin pricing is a terrible problem. In my mind the issues are multifaceted and not just clear cut. We need to understand no single actor (not even the manufacturer) can solve the issue alone. It will take effort by the manufacturer, PBM's, insurers, employers and yes even patients to get this worked out. Price may be a bigger issue than anything else we face in our community.


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