EpiPen – Critical, not Optional

Putting profits ahead of saving lives?

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. 20160909_070405I 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.

9 Responses to “EpiPen – Critical, not Optional”

September 27, 2016 at 5:19 am, Jim Chung said:

Perhaps you need to elect a congressman who is willing to support legislature that controls drug pricing. You need only look to your north and Europe to see that this policy works and drug companies continue to be profitable – just not obscenely profitable.

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September 27, 2016 at 7:29 am, Don Frederick said:

It is pure and simple greed! The costs of health care have risen astronomically in the past decade and all we hear are excuses by pharmaceutical companies! With the profits these corporations are making they can and should freely give of life-saving medicines or products without wincing to poor or wealthy alike! What a shame our society has become one that puts profits above the cost of human lives!

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September 27, 2016 at 8:00 am, Steve said:

We, as a society, need to stop falling into the trap of clever, well-designed delivery devices simply b/c they are convenient. It makes us feel vulnerable when such companies raise prices. We need to train to use generic vials and syringes to respond to emergency events, such that our costs are trivial, we can maintain a supply of non-expired product, and any vendor can supply the materials at low, competitive pricing.

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September 27, 2016 at 11:44 am, Julio said:

Tom,
Thank you for sharing your story. The rising costs of life saving medicine is topic we should all be paying close attention to. Unfortunately Teva’s generic was shot down by the FDA. I think Mylan sees the writing on the wall and is trying to optimize its profits before a generic alternative is out there. Hang tight, with a bit of luck and FDA approval there will be more affordable options soon. A suggestion for you to cut down the need for that second EpiPen is the following: Invest in a little bit of training and learn how to deliver an intra-muscular injection with a hypodermic needle. You are already doing it with the EpiPen. Have your doctor prescribe the pre-measured ampules of epi in the correct concentration. Learn to draw up the medication and you will have a very economical solution if a second dose is necessary. Remember the second dose can be anticipated so you have some time to prep. The injection with the hypodermic needle is also a lot more comfortable than the jab from the EpiPen. Like you said the cost for an ampule and a hypodermic needle is nominal next to the cost of the Epi-Pen. Don’t try to wing it though, get some training and talk to your doctor. Folks with diabetes inject themselves everyday so it’s a skill set that can be learned with some training You can save some $$ and not have to risk Kasey’s health. Hope this helps. Thanks again for sharing your story.

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September 27, 2016 at 2:44 pm, Steve said:

Thank you for stating the same idea more comprehensively than I. Folks, this is America and we have no idea to the inventions and ideas of others, even if we’ve become addicted to them. There are alternatives such that we do not need more government regulation and control. We can adapt. Free choice, free markets, free will, competition. That’s what we should be pushing for.

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September 27, 2016 at 2:11 pm, Kim Webb said:

This is so unfortunate for many families. And yet, narcan or naloxone is FREE to families of addicts. Free as a living saving medication for an individual or a family member. Outrageous that people with allergies don’t get this type of treatment. Outrageous for the fees and the profit the CEO of MYLAN makes.

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September 27, 2016 at 7:49 pm, pat cocoran said:

Drug companies like MYLAN are disgusting in their greed-especially for a lifesaving medicine like this one…it should be free…Hey you can’t take it with you guys-the only thing you CAN take with you is what you give away…ponder that if you are able.

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September 28, 2016 at 12:30 pm, Steve said:

Analogy: yeah, we Irishmen would be pretty irritated if the inventor of the shot glass tripled their price of shot glasses, but rest assured, we would find a way to enjoy our whiskey nonetheless.

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September 30, 2016 at 8:23 am, Julio said:

A bunch of replies calling for the government to regulate the drug companies. This is a very troublesome mentality that seems to be more and more prevalent these days. I am NO fan of the drug companies. I have to pay just like everyone here. I actually have to pay full retail because I stock them for my practice for emergencies so I’m not filling an Rx. The feeling of entitlement, though, is very harmful to our way of life. What will you need to give up in exchange for regulation of drug costs? Do we also let the government choose who is worthy of the free or discounted product? I don’t feel comfortable handing over that much power to a bunch of politicians. We are better than this. Try my work-around from an earlier post. Let competition drive down the costs of the drug. Let’s overcome this in a way that preserves Our American values

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