Impersonator behind Eli Lilly’s stock market crash goes public

The man behind a parody of the Eli Lilly account that stated insulin was free was told off News Week he is “pleasantly surprised” that his tweet sparked a discussion about the cost of the drug.

Sean Morrow, 33, of New York, set Twitter on fire on Nov. 10 with nine words: “We are excited to announce that insulin is now free.”

For Twitter users accustomed to quickly scrolling through their feeds, the verified @EliLillyandCo account might have seemed real with the blue checkmark.

But it was one of many parody accounts that took advantage of Elon Musk’s original $8 Twitter Blue plan to troll a major corporation.

Split view of Sean Morrow and insulin
Split view of Sean Morrow and insulin. Morrow said he was behind Eli Lilly’s parody account.
Sean Morrow/Getty

On Nov. 11, Eli Lilly shareholders shuddered when the stock price fell from $368.72 to $352.30 within hours of sharing the tweet, though it has since recovered.

Morrow said News Week he didn’t believe his tweet directly affected Eli Lilly’s stock price, saying, “The stock market is complicated and company values ​​rise and fall every day for a myriad of reasons.

“I didn’t see the tweet related to the temporary dip at all. Even in the unlikely event that the tweet affected stocks, it wasn’t due to cheating – nobody really believed insulin was free – but because of the bad PR of the outburst of awareness of predatory price erosion.”

Morrow, a staff writer for More Perfect Union, first revealed he was behind the account in a video shared on Nov. 22 on his work’s Twitter account. 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 for an Insulin Lispro injection was $82.41 for individual vials and $159.12 for a pack of five pens.

The American Diabetes Association said 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 US had diabetes.

A 2018 study led by Imperial College London found that one vial of insulin costs between $2.28 and $6.16 to produce.

According to The protectorEli Lilly’s CEO David Ricks later admitted that the price of insulin could be lower, adding Morrow’s tweet “probably highlighting that we have more work to do to lower the cost of insulin for more people.”

Morrow said “it was a total shock” to see his tweet, which he retweeted to a small following, get tens of thousands of likes and retweets.

He added: “So of course I’m pleasantly surprised that this has rekindled the discussion on insulin prices – with Eli Lilly’s CEO admitting that the tweet ‘probably highlights that we have more work to do to reduce costs’ being the icing on the cake, but I had no idea it would go this far.

That being said, the CEO’s comment doesn’t mean much until they do something: the wording is key. It probably emphasizes reducing ‘the cost’. Not the price – that’s what consumers pay, but the cost – that’s how much the manufacturers pay to make it, which is a fraction of what uninsured patients pay. They still want to protect their astronomical margins.”

Morrow said News Week Eli Lilly had not contacted him after taking responsibility for the tweet.

He said: “I am confident that no laws have been broken and I am confident in my legal rights.

The tweet was clearly satire, for a reason no pharmaceutical company would ever admit: In the United States, health care is so profit-driven that drugs are free or even cheaper, so absurd it has to be satire. “

The writer said Musk’s Twitter Blue scheme showed a “fundamental misunderstanding” of what verification on the platform meant, adding, “It’s not a status symbol. It’s for what it says in its name: verification.”

Morrow confessed to being nervous about the direction Twitter seems to be taking, adding: “It might sound crazy to be nostalgic about a website, but Twitter was a really powerful tool for sharing open source information, it community organizing, mutual aid, advocacy and construction movements are all at risk and there is no clear alternative yet.”

News Week has contacted Eli Lilly for comment.

Dan Ives, a business analyst at Wedbrush Securities, shared News Week the Eli Lilly case showed significant flaws in Musk’s Twitter Blue plan, which had been used to verify the identities of celebrity users, government departments, corporations and major charities.

Ives added, “This was another black eye for Musk and Twitter, ultimately revealing the obvious flaws of the rushed verification idea. A cautionary tale.”

Musk completed its $44 billion Twitter acquisition last month and enacted drastic changes at the social media giant, including mass layoffs.

The billionaire justified the $8 Twitter Blue subscription fee because the social media platform has not turned a profit in the last 10 years.

He wanted to restrict impersonation from accounts that don’t include “parody” in their biography, saying anyone who broke the rules would be “permanently banned.”

But Musk was criticized for his tenure at Twitter, accused of banning “anti-fascist accounts” and lifting suspensions for conservative users, such as former President Donald Trump.

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