Less than a month after causing ARIAD Pharmaceuticals’ stock price to plummet with a mere tweet for drastically raising the price of a drug used to treat cancer, Sen. Bernie Sanders attacked Eli Lilly and a Danish pharmaceutical company responsible for needlessly raising the price of insulin by 450% above inflation over the last two decades. By raising public awareness and launching attacks on Twitter, Sanders continues to disrupt the stock prices of any pharmaceutical companies that prioritize profit over patients.
Referencing a recent Washington Post article exposing the massive increase in insulin prices, Sen. Sanders tweeted on Tuesday, “What you have is an incredibly powerful and greedy industry charging whatever price they want.”
Shortly after Sanders posted his initial tweet, shares of Eli Lilly dropped more than one percent. In a follow-up tweet, Sanders pointed out that the price of Eli Lilly’s insulin drug, Humalog, has increased 700% higher than it was 20 years ago after adjusting for inflation.
Sanders also released a video on Twitter titled “Insulin Prices Are Out of Control.” In the evocative video, Sanders argues against the rising trend of skyrocketing drug prices before introducing a diabetic patient who cannot afford his insulin prescription.
“What you have is an incredibly powerful industry charging any price they want, and the result of that is that one out of five Americans can’t afford the medicine that they need. Can you imagine that?” Sanders asked in the video. “So they go to the doctor. Doctor writes a prescription, but they can’t afford to fill it. But five major companies made $50 billion in profits last year. See? You have an insane situation in which people are dying because they can’t afford the medicine they need or getting much sicker than they should just so these companies can make outrageous profits.”
The video continues with diabetes patient Donald Struthers explaining, “About three months ago, I went to see if I could get my insulin. I went to the pharmacist’s, and they told me I had to pay a co-pay of $360 for one of them. I can’t afford these medications. I can’t afford hardly to live. When I realized I couldn’t get the medication, it was scary. You know, it’s unpredictable what this disease can do to you.”
Suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure, Struthers’ mother survived a stroke at the age of 28 that left her completely paralyzed for the rest of her life. With his voice trembling, Struthers described growing up watching his mother’s deteriorating condition and fearing that he will endure the same fate.
“I even tried going to the emergency (room) because my blood sugar was so high,” Struthers recalled. “And when your sugar’s that high, the doctor sees you and he’ll give you some insulin. But the vial that they gave you the medicine from, they throw it away rather than give it to me. You know what I’m saying? Rather than give it to me because I don’t have any, they won’t. It’s like a business. No concern.”
On Tuesday, Sanders also wrote on Twitter, “Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk clearly care more about their profits than their patients. It’s time to end their greed.”
According to CNBC, Eli Lilly’s stock is down more than 6 percent over the last week, while the stock of Novo Nordisk was down more than 12 percent in the last week.
In a response defending the price of Humalog, Eli Lilly released a statement saying, “A permanent solution that gives everyone who uses insulin reasonable access will require leadership and cooperation across many stakeholders, including manufacturers, PBMs (pharmacy benefit managers), payers, and policymakers. That’s because the answer itself isn’t simple.
“For instance, while the list price for Humalog has gone up, Lilly actually receives a lower average net price now than in 2009. When Lilly released third quarter earnings on October 25, the biggest miss noted was Humalog, whose US revenue fell 14 percent, driven by a 24 percent decline in net price.”
After Sanders criticized ARIAD Pharmaceuticals last month on Twitter for increasing the price of a drug used to treat chronic myeloid leukemia, the company’s stock fell 15 percent. By utilizing social media, Sanders has found a new weapon in his war against greed and corruption.