Zero point three ounces doesn’t sound like a whole lot of anything, but it’s the difference between life and death for some folks. Millions of people are at risk of severe allergic reactions and they rely on 0.3 ounces of epinephrine, a synthetic form of adrenaline, to treat those reactions.
A stuffy nose, a slight cough, an irritating rash or constant sneezing are some mild allergic reactions the average person may face. While these allergies tend to be an inconvenience, there are a number of people who face allergies with more severe reactions. This allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis, which symptoms may include swollen lips, difficulty breathing, reduced blood pressure, or gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g., vomiting, diarrhea, or cramping). If these symptoms aren’t treated right away it can be life-threatening.
Good news for those Susceptible to Severe Allergic Reactions
There’s a highly effective medication out there that can treat the symptoms, and until recently was very affordable. With an injection to the thigh using an EpiPen, the symptoms of a severe allergic reaction can be reversed in a matter of seconds. Doctors advise patients with allergic diseases to carry two EpiPens with them at all times.
Bad News for Purchasing an EpiPen
A 30 millilitre vial of epinephrine costs about thirty dollars. The same medicine is in the Epipen; but because of its convenient, little-training-required method of injection, the Epipen is extremely expensive. Over the years, it’s become more difficult for consumers to afford EpiPens. Since 2007, the cost of the drug has increased by 500%. The two-pack that once cost less than $100 for a set will costs a little more than $600 dollars today.
One of the advantages of the Epipen is its ease of use; the medicine is available via a common injection with a syringe, but use of a syringe is much more difficult to master, especially with children. The Epipen allows anyone, even a child, to adminster the medicine with a minimum of training.
What caused this dramatic increase? Mylan, the pharmaceutical company who markets the product, acquired it back in 2007 before the price hike. The company has been gradually increasing the price every year since. Is it corporate greed? Possibly. A recent article indicates the price increases may be motivated by company executives wishing to reach revenue targets.
Last year, the drug maker Sanofi recalled a competing product, Auvi-Q, because it may not have been delivering the correct amount of epinephrine, leaving the EpiPen as the sole emergency treatment for severe allergic reactions in the general public. The price hike has sparked outrage among consumers and lawmakers who worry that those in need won’t be able to afford the pens.
EpiPen Price Hike Hitting Atlanta Parents Hard
Families in particular have been taking a hit by the price increase. While some school districts provide EpiPens, others require parents to purchase them so their child always has one available. Most will need to purchase multiple packs: one for the child to carry around, one to leave at school, another to leave at home. On top of that, EpiPens expire and need to be replaced yearly, forcing families to fork out hundreds, possibly thousands, for the drug.
The expense is causing some families to consider forgoing the purchase.
In response to the outrage, Mylan recently introduced a generic version of the product. The generic will sell for half the price of the brand name. Though the price tag will be substantially lower, it’s still a 300% increase from 2007 and still fairly expensive at that price.
What’s the answer? We believe it’s competition. Other vendors need to step up to the plate and produce a competing product. Mylan can charge their prices only because they are the only game in town.
We don’t fault allowing any company to earn a fair profit, but when there is no competing product on the market, pharmaceutical companies can pretty much charge whatever they like.