A pharmaceutical monster

The lesson from the pushback on Mylan’s price-gouging is that opposition gets results

In last week’s issue, the CN&R reported on the outrageous price of the EpiPen Auto-Injector, the potentially life-saving device that provides a measured dose of epinephrine for severe allergic reactions (see “Anaphylactic sticker shock,” Healthlines, by Howard Hardee).

After having an anaphylactic reaction to a bee sting, Hardee paid $630 for a package of two EpiPens. Later, he discovered that two EpiPens cost $57 in 2010 and, in fact, the price has been rising steadily since Mylan, a Pennsylvania-based pharmaceutical company, bought the trademark in 2007—despite the product remaining basically the same. Moreover, at this time, the company is the only one making such a device. That effective monopoly has created a monster.

Hardee’s experience isn’t unique. People with severe allergies have been similarly gouged across the country. Many have protested on social media over the past several weeks, leading EpiPen to become the subject of a national media firestorm. It was only fueled by revelations that Mylan CEO Karen Bresch’s salary had risen from $2.5 million nine years ago to $19 million today.

Facing extreme pressure, in a statement on Monday (Aug. 29), Mylan announced plans to roll out a generic version of its own product. The generic EpiPens will have a list price of $300 and “be identical to the branded product, including device functionality and drug formulation,” the statement reads.

It’s a good step, though the product will still be out of reach for many consumers while Mylan’s profit margin remains obscene. Kits of epinephrine and a syringe cost about $10.

The takeaway is that the citizenry can affect positive change if it’s loud enough. However, EpiPens are just the tip of the iceberg. As a nation, we need to rein in the skyrocketing price of all prescription medications. No one should have to make a choice between paying their rent and buying life-saving drugs.