When insulin was developed by Canadians in 1921, their goal was to provide it to patients at a reasonable cost until a cure for diabetes could be found. Eli Lilly was charged with servicing North Americans with the condition, but far from the original intention, the company is now under investigation by multiple state attorneys general for price fixing.
Price gouging by drug companies can have dire consequences. In March of this year, Shane Patrick Boyle lost his life after his GoFundMe drive came up just $50 short of covering his life-saving insulin.
In June, 26-year-old Alec Raeshawn Smith was found dead in his apartment, having tried to ration his insulin after aging out of insurance coverage through his parents.
And now, President Trump has nominated former Eli Lilly executive Alex Azar for secretary of Health and Human Services, a man whose tenure with the firm saw the price of its biggest seller - Humalog insulin - rise from $74 per vial in 2010 to $269 when he resigned in 2017.
Eli Lilly is currently named in a class action lawsuit, along with Novo Nordisk and Sanofi. As Newsweek notes:
These “Big 3” insulin makers control over 90 percent of the global market and maintain their lock on it in many ways. One is “pay-for-delay schemes,” like when Sanofi paid Eli Lilly to delay the launch of an insulin similar to its Lantus brand. Another is to sue potential competitors for intellectual property infringement, such as when Merck attempted to enter the insulin market in 2016.
Trump's pick seems counterintuitive, given previous statements he has made regarding major drug companies:
Trump has repeatedly called for drug-price reform. Last year he called out big pharma for “getting away with murder.” Yet by nominating Azar he just sent a clear message to industry. It’s open season.