October 24th, where #insulin4all activists demanded Eli Lilly immediately lower the list price of insulin and defended the lives of those who are rationing insulin just to survive. As many as 1.3 million patients are rationing insulin due to cost in the United States alone, over 100 years after insulin was discovered and the patent was sold for virtually nothing.
Patient advocates and allies met at Edna Balz Lacy Park to hear stories from patients and survivors from across the US about their experiences with insulin access and affordability. Advocates voiced both their pain from high drug costs and their commitment to continuing to advocate. The group marched toward Eli Lilly’s International Headquarters with a call for the pharmaceutical giant to lower their list price of insulin immediately.
Sa’Ra Skipper, who has lived with type 1 diabetes for 20+ years and has a younger sister with type 1 diabetes, was one of several speakers. She said: “Regardless of race, color or creed, if you’re insulin dependent you shouldn’t have to struggle in order to afford what you need to live. Too many loved ones have been lost. Forcing us to choose between bills and life is immoral….greed is taking innocent lives.”
Sa’Ra’s sentiment captures the spirit of the day and of the #insulin4all movement. Despite pain and outrage, our community is powerful. We find joy in each other and in the knowledge that we won’t stop until Big Pharma is held accountable and we achieve #insulin4all.
We had 1889 petition signers in support of our action and four organizational cosponsors (Generation Patient, People’s Action, City Circle Mutual Aid, Be A Hero) that signed on for our efforts. In addition to the on-the-ground attendees, we also received dozens of submitted messages of joy from advocates all over the globe who were unable to attend. This, combined with hundreds of views on the livestream of the action, confirmed that T1International had backing of advocates from all over the world.
After years of advocating primarily on screens and across the globe, coming together for the direct action at Eli Lilly in October felt liberating, powerful, and served as a reminder that we are not alone in our struggles. More people believe in #insulin4all than ever before, a clear trend we see every time we are able to unite in person and advocate together. Many passersby at the rally outside of Eli Lilly were enthusiastic in their support for our work and mission.
Local media provided ample coverage of the event both online, via radio, and on TV. Outlets such as WFYI Indianapolis, WISH-TV, FOX59, and others took the time to share our story with the larger diabetes and Indianapolis community.
In the aftermath of this event, Eli Lilly released a generic and incorrect statement that downplayed their role in the crisis and the fact that insulin is unaffordable to millions across the globe. T1International quickly put out a response to their statement. Ultimately, no patients should have to jump through hoops and fight tirelessly to access the medication they need to stay alive.
In the wake of this event and the fallout seen in a viral fake Eli Lilly tweet saying insulin would be available for free, Eli CEO David Ricks was quoted saying “It probably highlights that we have more work to do to bring down the cost of insulin for more people.” While we are glad to see that Eli Lilly is admitting this reality, it should not have to take another giant corporate mishap to lead to such a statement. Not to mention, T1International and other advocates have been saying what Rick’s said for years.
Although we have not yet won #insulin4all fight, the steps taken by policy-makers and the public relations actions taken the Big Three insulin manufacturers (such as patient assistance programs and discounts) make it clear that our voices are being heard. The world knows that insulin is too expensive and that we will not stop until we live in a world where insulin is available and affordable for all.
The fight for insulin access and affordability continues during World Diabetes Month and beyond. You can contribute in a number of ways through our Fight For Five initiative. Now through 2025, T1International and our allies will be advocating for a world where no one has to spend more than 5% of their total income on insulin and diabetes supplies. Currently, many patients are forced to pay as much as 40% of their earnings on the medicines and tools needed to stay alive. You can join our movement to alleviate this financial burden in a number of ways, including spreading awareness, signing up for future actions, and by encouraging the donations that make our pharma-free advocacy possible.
At T1International, we believe in a world where no one should have to risk their lives to afford an essential medicine. We are building a world where everyone with type 1 diabetes – no matter where they live – has everything they need to survive and achieve their dreams.
Thank you to Erin Lubin and Bob White for photography.