Eli Lilly’s stock dipped Friday morning after someone paid $8 to verify a Twitter handle resembling that of the pharmaceutical giant and posted: “We are excited to announce insulin is free now.”
Insulin, of course, is not free. In the U.S., one study released this summer found that the high price of the lifesaving drug puts an extreme financial burden on about 14% of the 7 million Americans who need it regularly.
The prank appears to have served to highlight this harsh reality, prompting backlash from people who use Twitter. Other insulin manufacturers, Sanofi and Novo Nordisk, also saw their stocks take a dip.
The Eli Lilly imposter verified the handle @EliLillyandCo, taking advantage of Twitter’s new rules governing who gets to have a verified account. The company’s real handle is @LillyPad.
The imposter tweet, posted at 1:36 p.m. Thursday, garnered more than 10,000 likes before it was removed by the platform. The real Eli Lilly posted an apology around 4 p.m. directed at anyone who was “served a misleading message from a fake Lilly account.” Screenshots of the tweet went viral on Twitter that evening.
Eli Lilly’s stock closed Thursday at $368.36, but dropped to $346.37 the following morning after fluctuating no more than $10 over the last five days. It’s still up significantly, however, from this time last year.
Another fake tweet made to look like it was from Eli Lilly poked fun at the apology and added: “Humalog is now $400. We can do this whenever we want and there’s nothing you can do about it.” (Humalog is a brand of insulin.)
Asked whether Eli Lilly was in touch with Twitter’s leadership in regard to the situation, a company spokesperson told HuffPost: “We are deeply committed to ensuring patients and customers receive accurate information about our medicines. In recent days, fake/parody Twitter accounts for Lilly have communicated false information and we’re working to correct this situation.” The spokesperson also included a link to Eli Lilly’s corporate website.
Previously, the verification process was designed to ensure authenticity ― that people and organizations were who they said they were, as is the case on other platforms.
Chaos ensued after Elon Musk, Twitter’s new overlord, decided that it would be better to allow anyone a blue checkmark next to their name if they paid $8 per month for Twitter Blue, a premium version of the site.
The result is that anyone can pay $8 to pretend to be anyone else on Twitter until the site’s staffers can suspend the account. Musk also laid off roughly half of Twitter’s workforce last week, including teams that handle content moderation, meaning that there are fewer people to handle mischief and shenanigans.
In the last couple of days, people have used Twitter to pretend to be O.J. Simpson (“Ya I’m ngl I did that shit”); Tesla (“BREAKING: A second Tesla has hit the World Trade Center”); Chiquita (“We’ve just overthrown the government of Brazil”); and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (“We <3 apartheid”).
While Musk asserted just two weeks ago that “comedy is now legal on Twitter,” he has since been forced to backpedal on his free-for-all vision as advertisers expressed their discomfort by freezing their spending on the platform.
On Friday, the company suspended new Twitter Blue signups while it works on how to deal with the impersonation issues.