I need to write a letter.

A little noise came about earlier in the week when people noticed that the stock price of Eli Lilly & Company, a large producer of insulin, had slipped six percent in a single day due to concerns that complaints of price gouging could ultimately hurt their bottom line. According to the Nasdaq report, the price of Humalog increased 10% just in the past quarter alone.

A lot of people focused on a quote from Lilly’s CEO, John Lechleiter, who, in the company’s quarterly conference call, when asked about the big increase in the price of Humalog, said that while the treatment is costly, the disease itself is a “lot more expensive.” Well, thanks a lot for that. Part of why it is expensive is because of Humalog. I think that’s what he was saying there, right? The disease itself is a “lot more expensive”, so the price of Humalog shouldn’t be a concern then, m’kay?

But it was a similar comment on the call from Jan Lundberg, Ph.D., Executive Vice President of Science and Technology, and President of Lilly Research Laboratories, that made me cringe the most. He was asked by an analyst about the “drug pricing debate”, the upcoming elections in the USA this November, how he had mentioned earlier that the industry was beginning to defend itself regarding pricing, and how he sees it all playing out over the next few years. Here is part of his response:
 
 
“In terms of what we can expect after the election, anybody that thinks they can predict the nominations, much less the election right now, I would love to talk to them. But I think this is going to continue to be an issue, or it’s going to continue to be on the radar screen because of demographics. And to some extent, as people get older, they are going to be more and more reliant on our medicines. I think we’ve got to continue to demonstrate that there’s value in the medicines we bring. Yes, they can be expensive, but disease is a lot more expensive. And emphasize the fact that low-cost generics, which account for over four out of five prescriptions today, represent ultimately the legacy of these investment efforts on our part, and provide the American consumer with tremendous value. So I think you can assume the industry is going to continue to maintain an active dialogue with each of the candidates, and to work across party lines to make sure that the views that ultimately translate into policy — and that’s what we’ve really got to be focused on — remain balanced and factual over time.”
 
 
Last time I checked, there were still no generic insulins available on the market, nearly 100 years after the discovery and implementation of insulin as a means to keep People With Diabetes alive.

Just trying to remain balanced and factual here, folks.

So, that really bothers me… the clearly false dialogue that it’s okay to overcharge patients for drugs they cannot do without, because there will eventually be generics available, which there won’t. Ever, without a fundamental change in policy at the governmental level. For heaven’s sake, Humalog was approved for use in the USA nearly 20 years ago.

That’s the frustration. What can I do about it?

I don’t know if there’s much I can do about it at all. But I know what will make me feel better. I need to write a letter.

I say a letter because on the Eli Lilly website, there is not one single e-mail address available. But they did publish the address of the home office in Indianapolis.

Do you want to write a letter too? Does this comment bother you enough to voice your concern?

Address it to:
Jan Lundberg
Lilly Corporate Center
Indianapolis, Indiana 46285 USA

Use your words. Tell your story. Be fair. Be kind. Above all, speak from the heart.

I will be putting together my own message, which I’ll share once it’s sent. I don’t know if it will do any good, but I know it will make me feel better. And it can’t hurt.

It should be noted that Eli Lilly & Company provides a lot of insulin to the IDF’s Life for a Child Programme, which also is helped through donations to Spare a Rose, Save a Child. So we’re on the same team there. Lilly helps provide assistance for people having trouble meeting the cost of their medicines. All initiatives that deserve praise.

They also have an executive who made a disingenuous comment on their most recent quarterly conference call, and that should be noted as well.
 

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Comments

  • Rick Phillips  On February 4, 2016 at 11:22 am

    Stephen: I chose to post this on the TUDiabetes blog web site. I think your points are spot on.

    rick phillips

    Like

  • David  On February 4, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    I wonder if the quote might possibly be out of context? It sounds to me as though he’s talking about drug pricing in general, not specifically about insulin. I think maybe he meant that the drugs sold by Lilly are expensive, but the consequences of untreated disease are more expensive. In non-D contexts that comment could make perfect sense (even though it’s still not particularly nice, I guess he doesn’t get paid to be nice.)

    Liked by 1 person

  • MH  On February 22, 2016 at 11:08 am

    This issue makes me so mad. Thanks for writing this, Stephen… and just FYI: I’ve now included a link back to this post.

    Liked by 1 person

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