Journalist behind viral Eli Lilly parody account pulls back curtain on ‘stupid little tweet’ that helped cap insulin price

smallean Morrow, a reporter who covers companies and politics at A more perfect unionwas looking for a way to poke fun at Elon Musk’s new pay-to-play verification system on Twitter when he discovered the perfect target – big pharma.

Knowing that more than 30 million Americans are diabetic, and that 31 percent of that group needs insulin to survive, he decided to target a pharmaceutical company that produces the generally cheap-to-produce but expensive-to-buy drug.

He discovered that Eli Lilly was one of the top producers of the drug in the country and decided to remove the name of the company for its contribution to the number of fake accounts that appeared after Mr. Musk tried to cash in on the verification system.

Using an old parody account — originally a parody Twitter page detailing Mothman’s run for public office in West Virginia — he changed the name to “Eli Lilly” and the handle to “EliLillyAndCo” and tweeted that the company produces insulin Free.

The tweet garnered massive traction before Twitter banned the account, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect—just hours before the tweet was posted, stock prices for Eli Lilly and other pharmaceutical companies plummeted, leaving many in the social media to wonder if the tweet helped the knee of the big drug producers.

Months later, after a law passed by the Biden administration required insulin makers to cap their prices at $35 for seniors, Eli Lilly — the real Eli Lilly — announced it would cap some insulin products at $35 for everyone and the company’s CEO, David Ricks, publicly called on other insulin makers to do the same.

Internet commentators praised Mr. Morrow’s tweet at the time of its posting and after the price cap was announced, crediting it with both lowering the companies’ share prices and the cap.

He said The independent that that praise is likely misplaced, noting that the stock market is a complicated beast, that the companies’ prices rebounded shortly afterward, and that cheap-drug advocates had been pushing companies like Eli Lilly to lower insulin prices for years before the tweet of. He admits, however, that his tweet highlighted the disparity between the cost of producing insulin and its selling price to a much larger audience than the issue might have otherwise assumed.

“In terms of Eli Lilly being the first to make this move that President Biden suggested that all three manufacturers do, I think there are a lot of activists and politicians who have been working on this for decades,” he said. “So I’m not going to say that my stupid tweet that I spent 10 minutes on had any big effect, I’d say maybe it sped it up a bit.”

He singled out Rep. Lucy Bath, who ordered the bill eventually signed into law by the Biden administration, capping prices at $35 for seniors, as more deserving of credit.

Congresswoman Lucy Bath

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“Like he actually, you know, won a seat in Congress and wrote a bill instead of just sending out a stupid tweet,” he said. “So I want to make sure that’s where all the real credit goes.”

Although Mr. Morrow’s reporting cadence is much broader than the pharmaceutical industry, he has kept pace with insulin pricing, mostly through TikTok videos explaining the change, congratulating Eli Lilly on the move and challenging them to drop prices further.

He said the existing $35 cap was a good start, but said the ultimate goal, in his mind, would be universal health care.

“What solves this is this universal health care … where whatever organization ends up being in charge of it is able to negotiate prices directly with the pharmaceutical companies, that’s going pretty far,” he said.

This desire for universal health care tracks the rest of the left-wing publication’s coverage, which often focuses on workers’ rights, union victories and, as Mr. Morrow covers, corporate greed. The insulin tweet is not the first time A more perfect union has capitalized on social media to take a complicated political story and blow it up for a wider audience.

A more perfect union used YouTube, TikTok and Twitter to amplify reporter John Russell’s coverage of the Ohio train derailment to highlight not only the accident but the warnings railroad officials gave about safety conditions months before the disaster. Mr Russell’s reporting on the derailment preceded a media frenzy in East Palestine in mid-February, reaching tens of thousands on social media, with videos later reaching hundreds of thousands.

Sean Morrow explains Eli Lilly’s viral tweet

This success is due to design. said Mr. Morrow The independent that the publication employs journalists, political pundits and social media experts to tailor its coverage and use digital spaces to help deliver its reporting to new — and often younger — audiences. A recent video focused on a beef farmer who nearly killed himself after being forced out of business due to the suffocation of corporate farming into the industry. The video has more than 300,000 views on YouTube.

He noted that YouTube has traditionally been dominated by right-wing political content. The company has been criticized in the past for its autoplay algorithm that provides users with increasingly extreme political content. Mr. Morrow said the publication entered the space in part in hopes of breaking through that saturation and providing users with left-leaning political content.

“So that’s a big part of it, too — if there’s a 17-year-old kid in Missouri who’s just watching YouTube for entertainment and watching some Joe Rogan videos, hopefully they’ll get one of ours next,” he said. The independent. “And it all clicked for them. This will change something for them.”

Mr. Morrow focuses on a section of the publication called “The Classroom,” which creates explainers — both in print and on video — that highlight the hows and whys of issues that affect everyday people.

“That’s my main responsibility … we make explainers who pick economic issues or pick things that people are already angry about and explain how we got here, who’s to blame, how the system was built in a way that created so much inequality,” he said. “And our job is to make it fun, to make it engaging, to make it something that people will almost consider entertainment, but they learn and we change minds.”

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