Mylan Drastically Increases Price of EpiPens Leaving Patients to Pay the Price
Get ready to take out a loan if you need to purchase a new EpiPen. The epinephrine injection, made by the pharmaceutical company Mylan, is a lifesaving device used by people who suffer from potentially fatal allergic reactions. But after repeated price hikes, the once affordable medication now costs around $600. This is especially frustrating for three reasons.
First, the pens cost less than $2 to make. Second, Mylan CEO Heather Bresch has seen her salary increase from $2,435,456 in 2007 to $18,931,068 in 2015. That’s a cool 671 percent increase, all while the EpiPen went from $100 to $600. Some of the harsh criticism and astonishment surrounding the price increase may be an overreaction, as many people don’t know that EpiPens come in a two-pack. At $600 dollars, that’s actually only $300 per pen. So after getting a second job, not spending money on anything recreational, and praying to whatever god you believe in that you don’t have a reaction, you’ll be fine.
But the fact the pens come in a two-pack is part of the third reason this is so frustrating: the FDA actually recommended the pen be sold in a two-pack, and prescribed to people who are “at risk,” and not just to people with severe allergies. Additional legislation required public schools in some states to keep EpiPens on site. There are theories circulating that some of the beneficial legislation was a direct result of the fact that Heather Bresch’s father is Joe Manchin, a U.S. senator.
Add in the fact EpiPens only last for one year, and you have a potentially disastrous situation for financially challenged families that need to buy the pens annually.
There’s a lot of speculation surrounding the price increase, with Mylan saying they improved the design of the EpiPen, therefore requiring the price hike. Others point to the fact that Mylan has almost no competition for epinephrine shots, essentially owning a monopoly on the drug.
The entire situation is reminiscent of former pharma executive Martin Shkreli who drastically increased the price of an AIDS medication while he was the CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals. And while Shkreli partially blames the insurance companies for the EpiPen fiasco, claiming they should take on most of the costs, he also referred to Mylan as “vultures,” harsh words from someone who was previously considered the most hated man in an industry loaded with people who are easy to hate.
A quick disclaimer: as someone who suffers from a severe dairy allergy, I rely on EpiPens to stop life-threatening allergic reactions. And while most reactions can be treated with Benadryl or other antihistamines, knowing a potentially fatal reaction can be stopped with an EpiPen is a comforting thought. But with two expired pens in my medicine cabinet and knowing full well I can’t afford new ones; I’m in the same position as many families around America. I will probably opt out of purchasing lifesaving medication.
Mylan recently released a statement claiming, “Ensuring access to epinephrine — the only first-line treatment — is a core part of our mission.” Hopefully they start taking that mission a little more seriously.
Michael Sapenoff is a writer and artist in Kansas City. Follow him @MikeSapenoff