The tremendous uproar in the last few weeks in reaction to the skyrocketing prices of Epi-Pens is not without justifiable cause. At a staggering $600 per each Epi-Pen two-pack, thousands of families and individuals that suffer severe allergic reactions are finding themselves unable to afford the epinephrine injector that could save their child’s life or even their own.
The pharmaceutical company that makes the Epi-Pen, Mylan, has found itself owning a monopoly over the auto epinephrine injector market, as smaller companies have tried but proved unsuccessful in offering a viable and less expensive alternative to the Epi-Pen. Being in this position, Mylan has gradually increased its prices, with the biggest jump happening in the last year. In 2007, Epi-Pen two-packs only cost a consumer about $100 at the very maximum, meaning the price has soared up 500 percent in the last nine years. Most consumers are under the belief that the price hike of this medical device that could save the life of a child is purely for profit’s sake. Bernie Sanders is even quoted as saying, “The only explanation for Mylan’s outrageous price increase is that the company values profits more than the lives of millions of Americans.”
Many believe that Mylan is “price gouging”, as the cost that goes into manufacturing Epi-Pens is only a very small fraction of the net profit. The two-packs are necessary for most individuals, since one injector is typically left at home and the other at school or work, in case of emergency reaction. The outrage stems from not only the rise in price, making it all but impossible for some families to attain the much-needed injector, but also that Mylan seems to have no legitimate grounds to be raising the price so dramatically, and has given no satisfactory answer.
Mylan claims that the rise in price is due to high deductible insurance plans, pharmacy benefit managers, and the in-between steps the drug goes through before reaching the hands of a consumer. However, despite petitions, rallies, and outrage from families unable to match the exorbitant price tag, Mylan is standing firm on their price. To ease the burden on consumers, Mylan is offering a $100 coupon (only usable depending on your insurance plan), and will be offering a generic brand version of the Epi-Pen for a cheaper price- about $300, instead of lowering the cost of Epi-Pens.
Despite the pharmaceutical company’s firm stance, steps are being made to combat Mylan. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is conducting an investigation into whether Mylan unlawfully engaged in anti-competitive business practices or purposefully limited lower-cost competition. There is also a class-action lawsuit now being filed against Mylan for the overpayment of necessary medications by Cincinnati attorney Carl Lewis. Additionally, a New York legislator has introduced a bill that would allow pharmacists to give out cheap, generic injectors with a brand-specific prescription without having to get a new prescription from the doctor. Many consumers are now trying to find ways to create their own alternative emergency kits for allergic reactions.