The cost of saving you or your child’s life has gotten a lot more expensive.
Doctors and patients say that pharmaceutical company Mylan has increased the price of its EpiPen – a portable injectable shot filled the medicine that can stop a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction — by over 480 percent since purchasing the pen in 2007.
Compared to 2008 when a pack of two pens could be purchased for about $100, the auto-injector now costs users over $600 a year for a single injection. The dramatic price hike is causing financial constraints for countless families who have severe allergies and rely on EpiPens to deliver a dose of the potentially life-saving medicine if they or their child have a bad reaction.
About the size of colored-marker, EpiPen is filled with epinephrine, which can counter the effects of an allergic reaction. Parents of kids with severe allergies commonly carry the injectable pen wherever they go in the unfortunate event they have to deliver the shot into their child’s thigh in order to stop a potentially fatal anaphylactic shock. According to a study by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, an estimated one in 50 Americans could have anaphylaxis, with is a life-threatening reaction to an allergy.
Mylan’s price surge coincides with the recall of EpiPen’s main competitor — Auvi-Q — last October due to inaccurate dosage issues. When Auvi-Q left the market, people with severe allergies were left with few options — and expensive ones, especially for people with high-deductible insurance plans. Even worse is the fact that epinephrine pens expire after one year, which requires an annual refill and the incurring additional co-pay.
Following Auvi-Q’s 2015 recall, Mylan gained a virtual monopoly of the market according to Bloomberg senior medical reporter Robert Langreth. “This brand name, EpiPen, it’s like Kleenex to allergists,” Langreth said. “You know, it’s a name they know and trust. It’s what they prescribe.”
Langreth further said that Mylan has remarketed the decades-old device without any new research or making any significant changes since acquiring it in 2007, although the manufacturer has spent tens of millions of dollars on TV ads and has donated the device to schools across the U.S. to ensure that the EpiPen is a familiar and trusted product.
“It’s a totally established brand name with little competition,” Langreth said. “That gives them freedom to raise the price every year.”
However, with the actual cost of the drug inside the EpiPen costing only a couple of dollars, in addition to there being no recent research and development related to the product since Mylan acquired the rights to the pen, the manufacturer is being accused of essentially charging hundreds of unwarranted dollars for a case – and the Mylan name.
In a statement to CBS, Mylan argued that the EpiPen’s price “has changed over time to better reflect important product features and the value the product provides,” saying “we’ve made a significant investment to support the device over the past years.” They pharmaceutical company also blamed the increased burden of EpiPen costs on the rise of high-deductible health insurance plans in the U.S.
Mylan does offer an EpiPen Savings Card for eligible patients that reduces the cost by a maximum of $100. But as users point out, a $100 discount still requires them to cover a majority of the remaining cost.