NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - It only takes Danny Mosley a few seconds to realize he’s in trouble.
After a quick finger prick, the readout of his blood sugar displayed 423.
“It’s a dangerous number,” Mosley admits from his hospital cot set up in the front room of his East Nashville home.
A diabetic for 19 years, he is now on disability. Money is tight, so he’s taking a step as dangerous as his blood sugar: rationing his insulin.
“I don't have a choice,” Mosley said.
While hundreds throughout the city are receiving free insulin through a widely-praised charitable organization, Mosely does not qualify given that his wife’s salary is above the income level.
When News4 Investigates informed him what company was providing the free insulin, he admitted to being bewildered.
“Yeah, it makes me mad,” Mosley said.
The three major manufacturers of insulin, including Eli Lilly, all face a class action lawsuit from diabetics who accuse them of artificially inflating the drug’s price.
But the supplier of the free insulin in Nashville, and in 150 other cities across the nation, is Eli Lilly. The quandary that a manufacturer of the medication, highly criticized even by Congress for the price, is also providing it for free across the nation, is not lost on Mosley.
“If they were actually concerned, worried, cared about the people needing the insulin, surely you would think they would make it available at a reasonable price,” Mosley said.
When word arrived in March at the St. Thomas Outpatient Pharmacy that free insulin would be provided through the charity Dispensaries of Hope, it was more than welcome news. It meant, for the first time, insulin would be added to their list of medications they can give to patients without insurance.
So far, the pharmacy estimated it has given our free insulin to 400 patients who qualified.
“We are their lifeline,” said Dr. Ashley Bennett, pharmacist at the St. Thomas Outpatient Pharmacy.
While Bennett said she doesn’t care where the free insulin comes from and praises Eli Lilly for providing it, a health care watchdog organization said it reeks of a PR stunt.
"This is gouging the vast majority of people and then offering up a token to a small number," said Vikas Saini, co-chair of the Right Care Alliance and president of the Lown Institute.
“Does providing this medicine for free make up for what they're being criticized for in the first place?” asked News4 Investigates.
“Oh, not at all. Because what we're talking about is a systemic problem,” Saini said.
A spokesman for Eli Lilly declined a request for an interview but did provide a statement that did not respond to any of our questions.
That statement, however, outlined all the ways Eli Lilly is working to provide discounted insulin across the country.
“Over the last three years, Lilly has introduced several programs for people whose health insurance does not adequately cover insulin – including price caps at pharmacies for people with commercial insurance and insulin donations to approximately 150 free clinics around the U.S. Today, the vast majority of people using Humalog – 95 percent – pay $95 or less for their monthly prescription. Anyone paying higher prices should call the Lilly Diabetes Solution Center at (833) 808-1234 to learn whether they qualify for lower-cost options.”