In his first public comments since a false tweet sparked outrage over insulin pricing in the U.S., Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks defended his company’s pricing—but also admitted it could be lower.
“It probably shows that we have more work to do to lower the cost of insulin for more people,” Ricks said of the Twitter outcry.
He made his comments at an event held by Stat News this week. Eli Lilly did not respond to Ars’ request for further information about what the company will do to reduce costs.
Ricks’ comments came a few days after a false tweet from a fake-but-blue-checked news outlet appeared as Eli Lilly said: “We are excited to announce free insulin now.”
The tweet quickly gathered thousands of likes and hundreds of retweets as Eli Lilly tried to get Twitter to remove it. According to A report from the Washington Post, there was panic within Eli Lilly as staff tried to contact Twitter staff but received no response for hours. Ricks acknowledged this week that the company struggled to get the tweet removed and found the situation “disappointing.”
“He deceived people and we want to fix it quickly. It probably didn’t happen fast enough for us,” he said. “And it presents some challenges on that platform.”
With the false tweet circulating for several hours—and other Eli Lilly news piling up—the real company took matters into its own hands, tweeting from its verified account: “We apologize to those who were misled. just from Lilly a fake account. Our official Twitter account is @LillyPad.” But it did little to stop the outcry, with Twitter users responding: “Apologize to diabetics for the price tag,” and “Why not make affordable insulin instead forgiveness?”
Twitter’s anger stems from long-term frustration with US drug prices, which are exceptionally high, especially for insulin, which is a cheap drug to make. Many diabetes patients in the US can easily find bills in the hundreds of dollars for a few vials a month, and a recent study found that 1.3 million Americans inject their insulin.