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'Imagine Having Ability to Do This All Along, and Choosing Not to': Eli Lilly Cuts Cost of Insulin Amid Covid-19 Outbreak

"Good of them to help diabetics who will die without insulin while their lives at risk from coronavirus. Unlike all those other times when their lives are simply at risk from harmless diabetes."

 "People are dead because Eli Lily refused to lower the cost of insulin all along, instead price gouging us and raising prices year after year for no reason other than greed."

"People are dead because Eli Lily refused to lower the cost of insulin all along, instead price gouging us and raising prices year after year for no reason other than greed." (Photo: 2C2KPhotography/flickr/cc)

Rep. Ilhan Omar on Wednesday was among skeptics of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly's move to reduce the price of insulin during the coronavirus outbreak who pointed out that the company's refusal to do so in the past has cost thousands of people their lives despite the ease with which it apparently could have cut prices.

"Imagine having the ability to do this all along, and choosing not to while people died," Omar tweeted Wednesday evening.

Eli Lilly announced Tuesday it will cap the co-pay cost of the drug at $35 for the duration of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, crisis, the company's senior vice president Mike Mason said in a statement.

"Too many people in the U.S. have lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 crisis, and we want to make sure no one goes without their Lilly insulin," said Mason.

The deal will not apply to those on "government insurance such as Medicaid, Medicare, Medicare Part D, or any State Patient or Pharmaceutical Assistance Program, according to CNBC.

The price change comes after sustained criticism of Eli Lilly and other pharmaceutical companies which have kept the price for insulin, a life-saving drug for people suffering from diabetes, at artificially inflated prices that have left many patients unable to afford the medication. 

As The Hill reported:

Insulin prices spiked nearly 100 percent between 2012 and 2016, often costing thousands of dollars even for insured people with high-deductible plans, leading to sharp criticism from politicians including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) of Lilly and its fellow insulin manufacturers Sanofi and Novo Nordisk.

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Stories of preventable deaths from diabetics rationing or an inability to purchase the medicine have been a constant feature of media healthcare coverage over the past few years, leading critics of Eli Lilly to point out the company's decision to keep prices high in the past was not easily swept under the table by Tuesday's announcement.

"A family member showed me her monthly bill for insulin, more than $2,000. To live," tweeted reporter Joyce Philippe. "This should have been the standard from jump."

Colby College professor Laura Seay said on Twitter that the company's attempts to spin finally doing the right thing into a publicity move wouldn't wash its hands of the deaths from keeping the price of the medication high for so long.

"People are dead because Eli Lily refused to lower the cost of insulin all along, instead price gouging us and raising prices year after year for no reason other than greed," said Seay. "They don't get a PR coup for doing the right thing now."

The disconnect between the Eli Lilly decision to change the price now as opposed to before struck Irish journalist Carl Kinsella as ironic and a strange way to prioritize affordability of care.

"Good of them to help diabetics who will die without insulin while their lives at risk from coronavirus," Kinsella said. "Unlike all those other times when their lives are simply at risk from harmless diabetes."

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