Mar 16 • 2M

How Despicable Are Big Pharmacies Insulin Price Gougers?

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Author, agitator and activist Jim Hightower spreads the good word of true populism, under the simple notion that "everybody does better, when everybody does better."
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Profiteering is always bad, but there are degrees of profiteer. Level 1 includes your everyday price gougers, like banks and airlines. At Level 2, you’ll find the more demonic outfits like loan sharks and for-profit college hucksters. Then top of the heap at Level 3, you’ll find Eli Lilly.

This $288 billion drug making colossus is America’s primary peddler of insulin, the diabetes drug that some seven million Americans must constantly take literally to stay alive. By having both monopoly power over the market and such a huge base of captive customers, Lilly has gleefully jacked up its prices again and again over three decades, with it now costing each sufferer as much as $1,000 a month! Finally, under intense political pressure to stop it’s extreme, life-threatening gouging, the giant recently announced it would soon cut its insulin price by a whopping 70 percent! In full-page ads, Lilly hailed its corporate generosity, magnanimously declaring that “everyone deserves affordable options.”

But – hello! – it has intentionally charged unaffordable rip off prices for 30 years, wallowing in monopoly profits. And – Hello again – if Lilly says it can keep profiting on its insulin product despite slashing the price by 70 percent, that means it has been overcharging patients by 70 percent all this time! Yet, its rich executives want us to thank them? No thank you.

Even with the price cut, they’re still charging $66 for a single vial of insulin. Guess what? It costs Lilly less than $7 to produce that vial, and it could be sold profitably for under $9.

Meanwhile, note that the ballyhooed price cut is voluntary, meaning Lilly can raise the price again at any time. Indeed, David Ricks (who personally pockets $19 million a year from the profiteer) has refused to pledge that he’ll keep the medicine affordable.

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