For parents of kids with life-threatening allergies, carrying around an EpiPen isn't a luxury, it can mean the difference between life and death. Which is why it's ridiculous that the price of EpiPens has skyrocketed since 2009 by more than 400 percent. Why are EpiPen prices spiking? The market is unfortunately dominated by one producer.
EpiPens deliver only about $1 worth of epinephrine to combat severe allergic reactions to everyday stuff like bee stings and peanuts, according to Bloomberg. But aggressive marketing and mandates that every school stock EpiPens have given Mylan, the company which manufactures and sells the pens, the go-ahead to charge whatever it wants. When Mylan first bought the rights to sell EpiPens, they cost about $57 each. Now, even after insurance and other discounts, a package of two EpiPens averages a cost of more than $400, according to Bloomberg.
Mylan has pushed the market for EpiPens into a billion dollar business through little more than marketing. The product hasn't changed, just the pricing and strategy. As for Mylan, the company said in a statement that it's the changing health insurance landscape that's to blame for the rising cost of EpiPens. Mylan spokeswoman Julie Knell told Romper by email that the company offers options for co-pay assistance and coupons to help drive down the cost to consumers.
With changes in the healthcare insurance landscape, an increasing number of people and families are enrolled in high deductible health plans, and deductible amounts continue to rise. This shift, along with other insurance landscape changes, has presented new challenges for consumers, and they are bearing more of the cost. This change to the industry is not an easy challenge to address, but we recognize the need and are committed to working with customers and payors to find solutions to meet the needs of the patients and families we serve.
"Patients are calling and saying they can't afford it," Dr. Douglas McMahon, a Minnesota allergy specialist told NBC News. "They're between a rock and a hard place."
Former presidential candidate and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders doesn't think so and released a statement about the soaring price of EpiPens, according to NBC News.
The drug industry's greed knows no bounds. There's no reason an EpiPen, which costs Mylan just a few dollars to make, should cost families more than $600. The only explanation for Mylan raising the price by six times since 2009 is that the company values profits more than the lives of millions of Americans.
There are companies and doctors trying to develop an alternative to EpiPens and offer a cheaper alternative for parents of kids with allergies.
Dr. McMahon is working on getting the FDA to approve his own $50 alternative, he told NBC, but that process alone can cost about $1.5 million he said. "When epinephrine only costs a few cents, but they're going up to $500, personally I don't think that's ethically responsible," he said.
There's another potential, cheaper competing product in development and awaiting FDA approval from Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, but it's not clear when that could hit the market, according to Bloomberg.