EpiPen Prices Soar as Students Return to School

Back to school season can be a stressful time for any parent, but it’s especially nerve-wracking if your child has potentially life-threatening allergies.

Many parents rely on the EpiPen — a portable device that can be used to auto-inject epinephrine — to keep their children safe in the eventuality of an allergy attack. This drug fights the onset of anaphylaxis, which can restrict the airway and starve a sufferer of oxygen, leading to death.

However, parents and doctors alike are sounding the alarm. The Mylan pharmaceutical company, which now has a virtual monopoly on the EpiPen market, has raised the price of their product from $100 to around $500 for a pack of two pens that will need replacing within a year. 

This price increase is reportedly forcing some patients to decline to take the potentially life-saving medication.

“Within the last two months, we’ve had about three patients who had issues with the price of an EpiPen,” pharmacist Leon Tarasenko, president at NYC’s Pasteur Pharmacy, told CBS. “They did not receive it. They just refused to take it.”

Mylan has refuted claims of an unjust hike. The company maintains it has increased prices according to the service the product provides to people and in line with other market rises — as well as its own significant investment to support the product.

Mylan has also highlighted that it continues to ensure several options for low-income families and others who may not be able to afford the treatment — for example, by offering price reduction codes on its website.

Those skeptical of a problem maintain that the notion of Mylan holding a monopoly isn’t true.

To be sure, there are still some alternatives on the market.

Generics are available and may come at as much as half the cost of the Mylan product. However, securing them can be difficult. Because Mylan is able to exploit a requirement that all schools stock auto-injectors — and holds considerable marketing power — it is often the go-to choice for stockists. And with the recall of a competing product made by Sanofi due to issues with its delivery system, Mylan does hold a substantial corner of the market.

At the very least, not everyone is convinced by Mylan’s cost-cutting programs for those who can’t afford their product at full price.

Market Watch calls the price hike move “Shkreli”-like in nature — a reference to the embattled Martin Shkreli who was hauled before Congress due to an aggressive price hike on Darparim:

Mylan calls its savings program the “$0 co-pay card,” but it only decreases out-of-pocket expenses by $100 ā€” enabling a free or low co-pay for those with good insurance plans, but barely making a dent for those with increasingly common high-deductible plans or no insurance.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — who headed an investigation into drug pricing in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions — slams the company in a statement to NBC News, stating:

The drug industry’s greed knows no bounds. There’s no reason an EpiPen, which costs Mylan just a few dollars to make, should cost families more than $600. The only explanation for Mylan raising the price by six times since 2009 is that the company values profits more than the lives of millions of Americans.

But this situation speaks to a broader concern about the pharmaceutical industry.

It’s undeniable that the industry provides life-saving treatments, and that’s abundantly clear in this discussion of the EpiPen. Companies often have to make significant up-front investments for new treatments, so one way of clawing that money back is to increase the price on products that consumers need.

If this sounds suspiciously like good business but potentially bad ethics, that’s the crux of the problem.

The approach works very well in other business sectors, but when health is on the line, it’s a lot harder to tolerate this kind of price manipulation.

The Mylan price increase and the surrounding controversy is, therefore, a symptom of a wider issue with the commercialization of health careĀ treatment —  one the American population is increasingly opposing.

Photo Credit: George Friese/Flickr

72 comments

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hillabout a year ago

Increases like this are just greed & price gouging!

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Eric Lees
Eric Leesabout a year ago

Another fine example of Crony Capitalism. Thanks to the FDA, Obama, & Obamacare.

"Don’t Blame Capitalism for Your Pricey EpiPen"

"If you need further convincing that the FDA impedes the market, consider the following:

The average time it takes for a drug to go from the lab to the medicine cabinet is 12 years
Only 1 in 5,000 new drugs will make it through the FDA approval
Based on the regulatory burden of creating new medicine, the average price tag for research and development for a new compound is $2.6 billion"
https://fee.org/articles/don-t-blame-capitalism-for-your-pricey-epipen

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Ron A G.
Ron Gabout a year ago

Just to add to those who think they aren't used that frequently but rather only in emergency situations, keep in mind they are supplies on ambulances, in clinics and doctors offices, in hospitals and clinics as further examples. They see people who need them and the charges are passed on to us. Their volume business is huge and reoccurring, certainly no need for price hikes. Research and Deevelopement was paid off long ago. If this is the trend for Big Pharma, then I say wipe away their patent rights which gives them exclusivity amd monopoly for 20 YEARS and either alter it or eliminate it. 20 Years is far too long a time anyway in order to get back some money. I don't want my money funding their next get rich product schemes. It was designed to help pay for and continue the research for the product and to make it better. Opening up the generic market would do that sooner and cheaper for consumers. Our job is not to make the CEO's rich beyond comparison, and we do evidently. The CEO's are beholding to their stock holders and screw us. Not anymore if we fight this and all others with our votes and activism.

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Rhonda BC
.about a year ago

I had read somewhere recently that EpiPens only cost $2 each to make. Even selling for $100 is criminal, $600 is pure evil. This is a LIFE SAVING medicine!!! Shame on them.

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Janet B.
Janet Babout a year ago

Thanks

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Rhoberta E.
Rhoberta Eabout a year ago

One of THE most disgusting things they could do. They know parents will not put their child in harms way if they have known allergies and triggers.
They have a FB page and the public MUST keep this front and center. Maybe this is one instance where parents need to check prices in Canada.

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Ben Oscarsito
Ben Oabout a year ago

I had never heard of the EpiPen, now I have...Thanks!

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallusabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

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ERIKA SOMLAI
ERIKA Sabout a year ago

noted

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Carole R.
Carole Rabout a year ago

Such a disgrace.

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