Over 500%. That’s how much the price of a two-pack of Epipen Auto Injectors rose between 2007 and 2016. Critics of Mylan Pharmaceuticals are speaking out against the outrageous and, arguably, unethical price hike.
Mylan became a monopoly of some sorts- it is the only legal manufacturer of Epipens in the United States. It’s success arose from the companies like Teva that fell short of the FDA’s expectations and patent protections. Essentially, Mylan has been the primary source of Epipens for decades.
People suffering from allergies desperately rely on these Epipens in case they have a reaction. Epipens dispense epinephrine when inserted into the thigh; the hormone (also called noradrenaline) creates a surge of energy by increasing blood pressure and heart rate, allowing the body to perform well under pressure of emergencies. It also widens air passages in the lungs and narrows blood vessels in nonessential organs.
According to the CEO, Heather Bresch, the company has no choice but to raise the price. Breach defended the price increase by stating that the company only makes $50 per pen. However, this statement seems slightly strange considering the company is in good financial standing; it reached $1.2 billion in sales on two-pack Epipens alone last year. A two-pack of Epipens used to cost less than $100 in 2007 and is now approximately $600. As an alternative to the pricey product, some American citizens reportedly went to extreme lengths to buy their Epipens in Canada, which ranges from $100 to $145. As an attempt to rectify the criticism of the spike in price and stop more customers from buying elsewhere, Mylan created a “savings card” that can potentially save the buyer up to $300. In theory, this sounds great- until the fine print is read. Most uninsured patients and those in government funded programs, such as medicaid, are not eligible for this savings card. The only exception is that families who are four times below the poverty line can receive the card. This savings card is just a half-hearted attempt from the company to reconcile with its consumers, while still trying to make the most money they can.
Currently, Mylan Pharmaceuticals face a class action lawsuit for violating the Ohio Consumer Sales Practice Act. The act states that “No supplier shall commit an unconscionable act or practice in connection with a consumer transaction. Such an unconscionable act or practice by a supplier violates this section whether it occurs before, during, or after the transaction.” Linda Bates, the woman who filed the lawsuit, chose to seek a class action lawsuit so she can represent a group of people who have bought the epipens continuously throughout the years for themselves or loved ones who suffer from severe allergies. Bates questions the legality and morality of Mylan’s decision to increase the price so dramatically. An additional lawsuit was filed in Michigan in late August, where a group of people are accusing Mylan of overcharging by only selling epipens in two-packs.
Price gouging is one thing, but the fact that the epipen, which can mean the difference between life and death of someone who suffers from allergies, can become inaccessible for patients due to the price is an entirely different thing. Depending on the outcome of the lawsuits, this can lead to a very dangerous precedent set by future pharmaceutical companies.