The cost of EpiPens has increased 480% since 2009, which makes it difficult for many families with to purchase them for their children with severe allergies.
The EpiPen is filled with epinephrine, 0.3 mg for the adult version and 0.15 mg for the pediatric version. The epinephrine is supposed to counter the effects of an allergic reaction, saving the user’s life. According to Vinita Nair, CBS News correspondent, the epinephrine is very cheap, so the manufacturer, Dutch pharmaceutical giant Mylan, is charging users for the name brand and the plastic case.
Jacob Andrews’ case
Jacob Andrews, 18, is one of the persons affected by the exponential increase of the injectors’ price. Andrews has carried an EpiPen with him since a decade ago. Andrews and his family found out about his severe food allergy after he almost died from eating a bite of See’s candy. The incident made him aware of the danger of his disease and had an EpiPen with him since then.
Before he left for Sonoma State University, his mother went to buy a pair of EpiPens so he could take with him. As with many other households, the Andrews’ family insurance does not cover the EpiPen, so the money must always come from their pockets. As Andrews states, it a “life-saving medication”, so there is no other choice but to splurge on it.
The Henegar household
Another case is the one involving the Henegar family. Lexi Henegar has six children, two of which suffer from severe food allergies, seven-year-old Ellie and three-year-old Cora.
Both girls have to avoid eggs, soy, wheat, dairy, peanuts, sesame seeds and tree nuts, among other foods. As careful as their parents are with the food ingested, Ellie’s life has been saved twice by the EpiPen. The family needs to replace the EpiPens yearly since they expire very quickly. Therefore, the price increase of the EpiPen has made it difficult for Ellie’s family to keep up with the fillings.
“I had her look it up again and she didn’t have to because she had answered that question many times with many other people who asked her the same question of, ‘Are you sure that the EpiPen is that expensive — and it is,” claimed Mrs. Henegar.
Sales keep going up despite the price
Even though the price is very costly, the sales for EpiPen have risen in the last years. According to San Diego allergist Michal Welch, it is because the number of children suffering from tree nut and peanut allergies has duplicated. Since those specific types of allergies are the most life-threatening, parents cannot avoid buying them.
It is believed that Mylan has increased the price of the injectors almost 30 percent yearly. The company has stated that this is because the liquid epinephrine expires very fast, in around sixteen months.
According to statistics, around ninety-five percent of all EpiPens are discarded before use, since they have expired. Mylan has also avoided any blame by saying the final price is the responsibility of the pharmacies and insurance companies.
The cost is becoming a barrier
Of course, there is a morality imbued in this issue, since families simply do not have any alternatives. As stated by Wendy Patrick, attorney, and lecturer at San Diego State University, the parents have to decide how much is worth their children’s life. Since “the answer is going to be ‘priceless’”, they will have to pay for the injectors, no matter how much the cost is raised.
Pharmacist Leon Tarasenko has said that in the past couple of months, many patients have left without buying the EpiPen, which means they are gambling with their life. The patients get outside the pharmacies empty handed due to the high prices of the epinephrine they need to consume on a daily basis.
Mylan’s EpiPen is supposed to have competition with other name-brands such as Adrenaclick, Anapen, Allerject, Emeraude, Twinject, Jet, and Auvi-Q.
However, it is a de facto monopoly. The company’s main competitor, Sanofi-Aventis, which used to sell Allerject and Auvi-Q, launched a voluntary recall on October last year. The reason was that the injectors had an inaccurate dosage delivery, which would render them useless.
Mylan has skillfully used the power of propaganda, spending millions of dollars on TV ads for the American public and donating the injectors to schools all over the country, which has rooted the name-brand, is the public conscience.
“It’s a totally established brand name with little competition, that gives them freedom to raise the price every year” added Langreth.
Mylan has stated the coupons offered permit many patients to pay nothing out of their own pockets, however, those with high deductible insurance
The company offers coupons, which have allowed many patients to pay nothing out-of-pocket. Those coupons are worth up to $100, so families with high-deductible plans like the Henegar and Andrews households have to pay the retail price.