Drugmaker Eli Lilly caps out-of-pocket cost of insulin to $35 (for real this time).
Judge: Starbucks violated workers’ rights “hundreds of times”.
Iran: Alarm over gas poisonings of hundreds of schoolgirls.
Drugmaker Eli Lilly caps out-of-pocket cost of insulin to $35 (for real this time)
Back in November 2022, an online hoaxer created a fake Eli Lilly Twitter account (with a blue check), and proclaimed that the company would make it’s insulin free. The real Eli Lilly then had to come out and say that the tweet was a fake and that it wasn’t reducing the price of its insulin. Now, the real Eli Lilly has taken the step to reduce the out-of-pocket cost for some of its insulin products to $35 for people with private insurance.
The move follows legislation in the Inflation Reduction Act that would cap the price for Medicare beneficiaries. At the same time, a few states, including California, Washington, Maine and Michigan, are exploring the possibility of producing their own insulin and selling it at cost, both to individual patients and to their own Medicaid programs. Eli Lilly’s decision may be meant to get ahead of those developments, which are sure to eat into their profits, while benefitting from a reputational boost.
Who will benefit?
Starting May 1, diabetes patients on high-deductible private insurance will be able to purchase four of Eli Lilly’s insulin products for $35 or less. The company says it is expanding its Insulin Value Program which caps prices for the uninsured (patients can sign up at InsulinAffordability.com. )
However, for those with insurance, there may be a catch in the form of Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs). PBMs are insurance company entities who determine which drugs are covered under which insurance plan. When the PBMs come into play Eli Lilly’s profits on insulin sales may not suffer much under the new plan.
Drugmakers offer rebates to PBMs to ensure their products are included and promoted in the menu of drug options insured patients can choose from. However, the PBMs don’t pass along that savings to the patient. By the time a company pays its rebates to the PBMs, the drugmaker may be getting only pennies on the dollar from each sale. By cutting its list price, Eli Lilly is essentially cutting out the middle man.
But PBMs may instead favor drugs from companies that offer them bigger rebates. Eli Lilly still has products on the market that won’t be subject to this $35-a-month cap, as do two of its largest competitors in this market, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi.
Judge: Starbucks violated workers’ rights “hundreds of times”
Administrative Law Judge Michael Rosas of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ruled that Starbucks has violated the rights of unionizing workers in its Buffalo, NY, stores “hundreds of times”. Rosas ordered Starbucks to reinstate seven Buffalo workers the company fired and to reopen a store the company shutdown after its employees voted to unionize.
The ruling also requires Starbucks to post a 13-page document in all its stores detailing the company’s labor law violations and delineating the rights of workers. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz will also have to read or be present at a reading of employees’ rights, with a recording of the reading distributed to all of Starbucks employees in the US.
A nationwide effort to unionize Starbucks workers got underway in 2021. To date, about 281 stores have voted to unionize, representing over 7000 employees. But Starbucks CEO Schultz has repeatedly, and often illegally, adopted illegal union busting tactics, including employee intimidation, firing union organizers and penalizing employees at stores who voted to unionize. Last year, a judge forced Starbucks to rehire 7 employees in Memphis, TN, who were fired after becoming involved in the movement.
Starbucks has yet to sign a contract with any of the unionized stores. Rosa’s ruling requires them to participate in bargaining with the union at multiple stores in Upstate New York. Starbucks may appeal Rosa’s ruling and has until March 28 to do so.
Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, will hold a vote to subpoena Schultz to answer for his union busting before Congress.
Iran: Alarm over gas poisonings of hundreds of schoolgirls
A recent wave of gas attacks on girls’ schools in Iran has parents, students and government officials pointing fingers in all directions. The gas attacks began in November 2022 as massive nationwide protest movement over state oppression of women was raging. By that time, girls’ schools had become hotbeds for such protests. Since November, more than 1000 students have been affected, but so far none have died. The symptoms students have experienced include respiratory problems, nausea, dizziness and fatigue.
After a brutal state crackdown including dozens of killings by police, thousands of arrests and several hangings, the larger protest movement has gone quiet. But the anger of the populace hasn’t dissipated, and schools remain focal points for organizing acts of civil disruption.
The most recent wave of poisonings have hit 26 schools in five cities, sickening dozens of girls. It’s widely believed among Iranians that these attacks are an orchestrated attempt to force the schools to close. The government has been cagey about who is behind the attacks and has refused to even confirm reports about what gas is being used.