Written by Virginia Eaton —
The happy dance in which so many parents partake as their school age darlings head back to class might be somewhat diminished for those who have to refill their EpiPen prescription.
EpiPens provide lifesaving doses of epinephrine to those who suffer from serious allergic reactions. But be prepared, given recent price increases you may need to take out a second mortgage to cover the cost!
Mylan, the company that acquired the epinephrine auto-injection device, has been feeling pretty proud of itself lately, so much so that they have increased the price of the EpiPen by 450 percent over the last several years, from about $100 for a two-pack in 2007 (adjusted for inflation) to more than $600 this year. This whopping increase has allowed their CEO to take a hefty increase in her pay on the backs of families who can ill-afford the $600 yearly expense.
Mylan, who has no competitors for the product at the moment, will only sell their EpiPen in sets of two so, if you need to replace one that your child lost or you just need an extra one at grandma’s house, you still have to buy two. Having an extra one in the drawer wouldn’t be so maddening except, in order to be effective, EpiPen prescriptions must be refilled every 12 months or so, meaning that $600 expense is a yearly one.
Epinephrine is the hormone that prevents the symptoms of life threatening allergic reactions and costs less than a dollar per dose. The device itself — which makes delivering that dose of epinephrine so simple a child could self-administer — it has been around for decades, and was actually developed by NASA scientist. So the question I want answered is, if the medication in the EpiPen is inexpensive and the device has been around since the 1980s, what could possibly explain the shocking increase in this life-saving device?
Here is the beginning of the answer.
Mylan acquired the EpiPen in 2007 and at first saw it as a loser. But their CEO, Heather Bresch, saw potential in the device and through brilliant marketing and awareness campaigns increased sales as well as the price to the point that EpiPen is now Mylan’s jewel in the crown.
Mylan began an anaphylaxis awareness campaign with actress and mom of a highly-allergic child Sarah Jessica Parker (think Sex in the City) as their spokesperson. The campaign had a very non-profit feel to it but their goal was absolutely about profits and, with Parker’s help, they increased the awareness of anaphylaxis to the point legislators got involved and agreed that schools should be required to carry EpiPens. Parker has since stepped down as spokesperson saying she was saddened by steep price increase.
CEO Bresch leveraged her connections as Senator Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) daughter to take advantage of the legislative process to open new markets. She is encouraging public entity legislation that could require any place where people gather (restaurants, hotels etc.) to carry EpiPens. Given the incredible increase in the market for EpiPens, the cost should come down but over the last few years Bresch has increased the price of Epipens to the point that now, if you need to resupply you or your child , it will cost you around $600 every single year.
Mylan was so pleased with Bresch’s job well done that they gave her a significant raise—she is now paid a yearly salary of $18 million dollars and is arguably one of the few people who could afford her product.
All the hullabaloo around this avarice has gotten the attention of both the media and lawmakers, hopefully bringing some relief for strapped families. Mylan has been fairly quiet in explaining the obscene increase, stating that they offer a substantial coupon for their EpiPens, which seems generous until you realize many families who have high deductible insurance plans will still be laying out $500 to prepare their child for school this year, and goodness knows what the cost will be next year!
Of course if you live in, or travel to Canada you can purchase the EpiPen without a prescription for about $100 per twin pack.