Big Pharma’s greed exposed again with rise in EpiPen costs
Monday, August 22, 2016
As the school year begins, parents across the nation are being confronted with the outrageous price increase of the life-saving epinephrine delivery device, EpiPen.
For parents of children who attend school or daycare, having this life-saving medication readily available is a necessity. The EpiPen quickly delivers epinephrine, which is needed to prevent anaphylaxis and possible death due to severe allergies.
Since the Mylan pharmaceutical company purchased the rights to the patented pen delivery device in 2007, the price has increased significantly. The average price for a two pack of pens in 2008 was about $100, with the current price at $500 or more — demonstrating a price hike of over 400 percent.
Mylan said in a statement that the prices have "changed over time to better reflect important product features and the value the product provides" and that they had "made significant investment to support the device over the past years."
However, most recognize no changes have been made to the age-old drug, and the delivery device has not been modified. The only action Mylan has taken was to invest millions of dollars into marketing the medication in TV commercials and by donating devices to schools to insure familiarity.
This all came at a time when its only viable competitor, Auvi-Q by Sanofi US, voluntarily recalled its epinephrine product from the market. This leaves EpiPen with no market competition and essentially a monopoly, giving them the freedom to set the price as they can. In 2014, EpiPen became Mylan's first $1 billion product — and the price continues to increase.
The sky is the limit for Mylan as families need to replace multiple pens each year due to annual expiration dates. Although they offer coupons on their website, it only provides a $100 discount, hardly covering the cost placed on consumers who are mostly children. With many Americans enrolling in healthcare insurance plans, the idea that the medication is "covered" certainly adds to the incentive to raise prices.
Most disturbing is the familiarity of this situation to former Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli, who infamously increased the price of Daraprim by 5000 percent. The medication, which was used primarily in patients with HIV/AIDS and some cancers, quickly became the epicenter for debate on using pharmaceuticals to drive capitalism.
In fact, even Shkreli has criticized the move by Mylan, calling them "vultures" and telling NBC News: "What drives this company's moral compass?"
Once again, the conversation needs to be continued regarding free-market capitalism when it comes in conflict with public health. As long as Big Pharma is allowed to continue to perform unrestricted, patients will continue to be prey to increasing costs that result in huge profits.
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