How the Soaring Prices of Epipens Are Affecting Our Safety

There’s been a lot of buzz lately about the excessively high prices of the brand name Epipen autoinjector. In 2007, a single brand-name autoinjector was $50, and now it’s $300. And that’s just the wholesale price to the pharmacy. I’ve seen reports of pharmacies almost doubling that price and billing patients $1200 or more for a twin-pack.

You don’t need me to tell you that this price hike is unnecessary and unethical.

The medicine inside of the injector is about $1 per dose, but it’s not really the epi you’re paying for- it’s the delivery device. That however can’t possibly cost even close to $300 per pen, which is the minimum wholesale cost to pharmacies. (The pens only come in a twin-pack and should always be carried in pairs.) Obviously if at one time the price was only $50, the pens must cost some amount less than $50 to manufacture. I can understand that manufacturing costs rise over time, but I sincerely doubt that they rose by 600 percent. This is price gouging. It is unethical profit maximization at the expense of people–CHILDREN–who NEED the medication to stay ALIVE.

The “Low Cost” Alternatives Are NOT Safe Alternatives

Yes, it is THIS SPECIFIC medication and delivery device that we–and our allergic children and loved ones–need. This point is important enough to warrant its own post: In an emergency, an manual draw epinephrine injection kit is NOT an appropriate replacement for an autoinjector, and the syringe based auto injectors are NOT an appropriate sub for a cartridge based autoinjector!

  1. For people who are not medical professionals, draw time on a manual injection is too slow. Seconds count, and an average parent trying to inject their child takes two and a half minutes to draw up.
  2. Even if you are practiced at drawing and injecting, if you have having even a moderate reaction you may be too compromised to inject yourself with a manual draw. Anyone who has ever fumbled around looking for their asthma inhaler, benadryl, or even car keys to get to those things, knows this from experience. Trying to draw up, remove air bubbles, and then *remove your pants* to inject yourself during anaphylaxis is almost always out of the question.
  3. The syringe based auto injectors such as the adrenaclick may not deliver a sufficient dosage of epi.
  4.  Syringe based solutions, either manual or auto injection, cannot be used through clothing. Clothing must be removed or cut away, costing seconds that could be the difference between life and death.

The $0 Copay Card is Not a Solution

In response to the uproar over the increased Epipen pricing, Mylan announced they would “halve” the cost Firstly, the $0 copay card never was $0 copay. It was up to $100 off a twinpack, which would only be $0 if your copy was $100 or less. Secondly, it could not be used by anyone who didn’t have insurance, or who had Medicare/Medicaid. Thirdly, it was not legal in every state. In response to the outrage, Mylan raised the value of their coupon to $300, and that STILL isn’t good enough: Assuming you were even eligible to use the card, *someone* would be paying up to $300 for your epipen. If not you, then your insurance company.

Here is an article on WebMD about why the coupon isn’t truly saving us money.

The Generic Option is STILL Too Expensive

Back in February of this year, the only product comparable in ease of use to the Epipen, the Auvi-Q, was recalled due to potential dosage delivery issues. In April, it was announced that a new company would begin working on the delivery issues and try to put the Auvi Q back on the market. A few months later, Mylan hiked the price of their brand name product up by double.

Only three weeks after *that* Mylan announced release of their generic,  with a wholesale cost of $300, which is the same as the Epipen brand name before the price increase.  News rticles made it sound like the generic release was in response to the public outcry, but if it were reactionary and not planned, there is NO WAY they would have it ready to go only 3 weeks after the price hikes. They obviously anticipated the outcry and planned ahead how to respond.

To Put it Bluntly: This is F***ing Garbage

This was obviously planned, and obviously an attempt to maintain their profit margins in the face of possible competition. As I already said, it is price-gouging, and the victims are disabled people, and disabled CHILDREN.

I’ll spare you the detailed conspiracy theories. I’m not a journalist, just an allergy and chronic illness patient who’s trying to share some information with her fellow patients. I’ll link to a few articles with lots of information. Draw your own conclusions.

NPR: EpiPen’s Dominance Driven By Competitors’ Stumbles And Tragic Deaths

Chicago Tribune: How Mylan, the EpiPen company, maneuvered to create a virtual monopoly

Bloomberg: How EpiPen’s Price
Rose and Rose

Forbes: Why Did Mylan Hike EpiPen Prices 400%? Because They Could

 

Back To the Point: Do Not Risk Your Life on Low Cost Alternatives

Please, if have any other options, do not try to save money on an alternative to the Epipen that will put you or your loved ones’ life in danger. If you don’t have any other options and truly cannot afford an autoinjector that you *know* will deliver the correct dosage of the meds and that you can use reliably and correctly in an emergency, please ask for help affording one. If no one can help you, please, please, please tell me, tell the news station, tell everyone you can about it. I know that this doesn’t help you right now, but the more people hear about situations where people are literally risking their lives because they can’t afford life-saving medication, hopefully the more pressure Mylan will feel to correct their problems, and the more demand other companies will see for a functional and safe alternative.

2 thoughts on “How the Soaring Prices of Epipens Are Affecting Our Safety

  1. So I got my first epi-pen in 2008 after a single fire ant bite almost killed me. It was $50-75, I’m not sure of the exact price. It expired without my needing to use it. I intended to avoid fire ants for the rest of my life. Last summer I got bit again, but EMS saved me. I got a new Rx and discovered they no longer sell singles, and I couldn’t afford the cost of two! I went without until a friend of mine who also needs an epipen got her two and gave me one. That may be illegal, but it’s the best I can do! It’s not right, taking advantage of people’s desire to survive by price gouging the med that can give them time to get to the ER.

    • I’m glad you were able to get at least one Epipen, but if at all possible you should try to get two. In many cases your body will metabolize through the first pen too quickly and you’ll need another before the twenty minutes that the epi allows you is up. Not only that, but biphasic reactions are not unusual, so you could still require another epipen many hours after using the first, possibly even after the hospital has sent you home.

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