Recently Mylan, the company who markets and sells the EpiPen, got in a lot of hot water for raising the price of these critical prescriptions to what appears to be an astronomical amount. Then, in what is either a well-orchestrated plan or a desperate attempt at PR recovery, they have now announced they will be issuing a generic version of the pen for around $300. This is considerably more. It is a generic for half the price, but keep in mind this price is still higher than the $264.50 the branded version cost just 3 years ago.
This cost, even for the generic, could be a problem for school districts within the 11 states which require schools to keep a supply of EpiPens on hand. Much like the increasing legislation requiring schools to have AEDs and a cardiac event plan in place, having the pens available and accessible will save many young lives and makes a lot of sense. Since 2012, Mylan has a program whereby qualifying schools who are required or allowed by law to stock epinephrine, can receive 4 free EpiPens per school year to assist in unexpected cases of anaphylactic shock (but not to replace a child’s prescription). For schools whose budgets are already stretched thin, this could definitely help. For information on the program and how your school can enroll, go to www.epipen4schools.com.
The fact is EpiPens are not an optional item for most people who need them. Take, for example, Kasey, who has a tree nut allergy. Her father, Tom, tells the story:
We noticed while eating certain foods Kasey would break out around her face. It progressively was getting more severe. We eventually had her tested and that was the start of our journey using EpiPens. I was shocked and amazed at the cost. When we got our first EpiPen 2 pack it was $480 retail. At the time EpiPen had a $100 maximum deductible coupon. Our health insurance is a high deductible plan. We pay 100% until we reach our deductible which is over $4000. That means we paid $380 with the coupon. This year I picked up two 2 packs. The pharmacy told me the retail was $1580 or $790 apiece (I am hoping she was wrong as they are supposed to be $609 retail). That was just the difference in one year. The good news, if it is good news, is because of other family health issues we had met the majority of our deductible. With Mylan’s up to $300 dollar a pack discount I had no cost this year.
We give one pen to the school in case of emergency, and the school is required to buy them. When we give one to the school that leaves us with one. That is not enough. Thirty percent of people who need a pen will need a second dose within twenty minutes. That means a patient should have a minimum of 2 pens with them, so we need to buy 2 two packs a year. Of course, we have to buy them every year because the drug has a short life and expires after one year. I hope 2 will be enough because we live in a rural area.
We are upset at the obvious raise in price for a life-saving drug for pure profit. The cost of the medicine in an epi-pen is less than 2 dollars. We want companies to make a profit. We just want some ethics and for that profit to be reasonable.
I lost a friend to a bee sting and an epi-pen would have possibly saved his life. We will spend the money because our daughter is worth every penny. We are lucky because we can afford this medicine. The cost hurts us with other things like saving for college. I could not imagine someone on lesser incomes having to buy these year in year out for potential life-saving medicine.