EpiPen price hike, what it means for everyday Americans

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Story by Kataylor Price / Contributing Writer

Many of us, whether we suffer from allergies or not, are familiar with the EpiPen. The medication, invented in the 1970s by biomedical engineer Sheldon Kaplan, is used to quickly treat those facing anaphylactic shock. Now, this extremely common medication is facing plenty of controversy over its massive price hike.

The average price of an EpiPen 2-pack has increased six-fold to as much as $700 in recent months. This isn’t sudden. The average cost of the EpiPen has been increasing since 2007. The recent increases are indeed much bigger than usual, jumping 15 percent every financial quarter. On top of that, the CEO of Mylan, EpiPen’s manufacturer, saw her salary increase over 600 percent from $2.4 million to nearly $19 million.

Particularly, parents of children with food allergies are rightfully outraged at this price spike. In August, the biggest selling month for EpiPens, 70 percent of prescriptions go to those aged 18 and younger. Due to this dramatic rise, many of those who used to rely on the EpiPen to save their lives or their children’s lives are resorting to using syringes with the medication. This poses an additional problem. It is much harder to measure the correct amount needed to fight an allergy attack. However, it is cheaper than spending hundreds, sometimes over a thousand dollars, on two EpiPens that expire after a year.

The controversy has attracted the attention of lawmakers. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a letter to Mylan asking for an explanation of the price increase. Sen Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) also sent a letter about the issue, asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether Mylan committed anti-trust violations surrounding EpiPen’s pricing.  The controversy has even pressured Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to release a plan that will penalize companies if they hike the price of their medication the way Mylan did.

This has shined a new light on how the American health care system differs from those of other developed countries. The United States government is the only one in the developed world that does not have the power to regulate drug prices. Here, drug manufacturers set their own prices, which means they maximize their profits the same way any other manufacturer would. Other governments see the drug market as uncompetitive and set their prices bureaucratically, similar to how utilities are handled.

Many supporters of our current healthcare system believe that this allows us to have the world’s best healthcare. Yes, it might work great for those who can afford it. But what if you cannot?

When a drug manufacturer like Mylan significantly raises the price of a drug, the response is more like a domino effect. The price hike means that insurers have to pay more for that drug. To cover the cost, they’ll either raise premiums or raise the deductible so that the cost is loaded onto the average consumer. For those who aren’t financially well-off, this means a higher deductible, which makes it more likely that the cost of the EpiPen comes out of their own wallet instead of their paycheck.  Many American families simply cannot afford to repurchase such expensive medication every year, which is required for those using the EpiPen.

As of right now, there isn’t much that can be done to solve this problem. With the EpiPen, Mylan has offered coupons for over $300 off a 2-pack prescription, but that still won’t be enough for many in the working class. They are also introducing a generic version of the drug, which will be sold for half the price of brand-name model. Unfortunately, the pricing of the generic version will still show an approximate $200 increase since 2009. As a result of this continuing rise in cost, millions of Americans will have to live with the unfortunate uncertainty, either spending money they do not have on medication they cannot afford or risk their lives without it.

This is an opinion, written from the perspective of the writer and does not reflect the views of Sidelines or MTSU.

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To contact News Editor Amanda Freuler, email newseditor@mtsusidelines.com.

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