The man behind an Eli Lilly parody account that claimed insulin was free says Newsweek he is “pleasantly surprised” that his tweet sparked a discussion about the cost of the drug.
Sean Morrow, 33, from New York, set Twitter ablaze on Nov. 10 with nine words: “We are thrilled to announce that insulin is now free.
For Twitter users accustomed to quickly scrolling through their feeds, the verified account @EliLillyandCo might have appeared authentic with its blue checkmark.
But it was one of many parody accounts that took advantage of Elon Musk’s quirky $8 Twitter Blue scheme to troll big business.
On Nov. 11, Eli Lilly shareholders grimaced when its stock price rose from $368.72 to $352.30 hours after the tweet was shared, though it has since recovered.
tomorrow said Newsweek he didn’t believe his tweet had a direct impact on Eli Lilly’s share price and said: “The stock market is complicated and company values go up and down every day for a myriad of reasons.
“I didn’t see the tweet as being related to the temporary drop at all. Even in the unlikely situation where the tweet affected the stock, it wasn’t due to deception – no one really believed insulin was free – but because of the poor PR of predatory pricing awareness.”
Morrow, a staff writer for More Perfect Union, first revealed he was behind the account in a video shared to his work’s Twitter account on Nov. 22. The seven-minute clip has been viewed more than 590,000 times since it was shared online.
According to a September 2021 Lilly Investors press release, the price of an insulin Lispro injection was $82.41 for individual vials and $159.12 for a five-pen pack.
The American Diabetes Association says people may need one to four injections a day depending on the type of diabetes they have and how advanced it is.
In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 37.3 million people in the United States had diabetes.
A 2018 study by Imperial College London found that a vial of insulin cost between $2.28 and $6.16 to produce.
According The GuardianEli Lilly CEO David Ricks later admitted that the price of insulin could be lower, adding that Morrow’s tweet “probably highlights that we still have work to do to reduce the cost of insulin for more people”.
Morrow said “it was a total shock” to see his tweet, which he retweeted to a small audience, receive tens of thousands of likes and retweets.
He added: ‘So of course I’m pleasantly surprised this has revived the insulin pricing discussion – with Eli Lilly CEO admitting the tweet ‘probably underlines that we still have work to do to reducing the cost” being the icing on the cake. But I had no idea it would go this far.
“That said, the CEO’s comment doesn’t mean much until he does something: wording is key. “Probably highlights ‘what lowers ‘cost’. Not price – c “is what consumers pay, but the cost – is what producers pay to make it, which is a tiny fraction of what uninsured patients pay. They still want to protect their astronomical margins.”
tomorrow said Newsweek Eli Lilly had not contacted him after taking responsibility for the tweet.
He said: “I am a firm believer that no law has been broken and a firm believer in my legal rights.
“The tweet was clearly satirical for a reason that no pharmaceutical company would ever admit: healthcare in the United States is so profit-driven that any free, or even cheaper, medicine is so absurd. must be a satire.”
The writer said Musk’s Twitter Blue schema showed a “fundamental misunderstanding” of what verification meant on the platform, adding, “It’s not a status symbol. It’s what it’s for. it says in its name: verification.”
Morrow admitted to being nervous about the direction in which Twitter seems to be heading, adding, “It might sound silly to be nostalgic for a website, but Twitter really was a powerful tool for open source information sharing, community organizing, mutual aid, advocacy and movement building. All of this is in danger, and there is no clear alternative yet.”
Newsweek has contacted Eli Lilly for comment.
Dan Ives, trade analyst at Wedbrush Securities, said Newsweek the Eli Lilly case showed major flaws in Musk’s Twitter Blue scheme, which had been used to verify the identities of famous users, government departments, corporations and large charities.
Ives added, “It was another black eye moment for Musk and Twitter, which finally exposed the obvious flaws in the rushed verification idea. A cautionary tale.”
Musk completed his $44 billion takeover of Twitter last month and made sweeping changes to the social media giant, including massive staff layoffs.
The billionaire has justified Twitter Blue’s $8 subscription fee as the social media platform hasn’t made a profit for the past 10 years.
He wanted to crack down on impersonation accounts that didn’t list “parody” in their bios and said anyone breaking the rules would be “permanently suspended.”
But Musk has come under fire for his tenure on Twitter and has been accused of banning “anti-fascist accounts” while lifting suspensions for conservative users, such as former President Donald Trump.