Life Threatening Greed, American Style

“Reports emerged last week that [the pharmaceutical company Mylan] had implemented a series of gradual price increases inflating the price of the drug [Epinephrine] from $56.64 to $317.82, a 461% increase in cost since Mylan acquired the rights to EpiPen in 2007.”

– The Guardian 

• Anaphylaxis is caused by a severe over-reaction of the immune system caused by allergic reactions to just about anything. Perhaps the most common are to nuts (especially peanuts), medicines (such as penicillin) and insects (bee venom). It results in a narrowing or complete blockage of the windpipe and a sudden drop in blood pressure and can be fatal. It develops rapidly, often within minutes, and is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate emergency care.

• Approximately 150,000 Americans, mostly children, suffer an anaphylaxis attack every year. On average, one will die from it every day.

• The best emergency response to an anaphylaxis attack is injection of epinephrine. Doctors, hospitals and schools all keep on hand EpiPens – epinephrine. People who have already once experienced an attack know to always carry one on their person, especially those with food allergies as processed foods may not list all contents.

• Epinephrine and syringes are cheap. Various sources estimate the manufactured cost of an EpiPen to be about 35 cents each, which Mylan retails at approximately $300.00.

• The EpiPen is currently the only medicine approved by the Federal Drug Administration for stopping an anaphylactic reaction to severe food allergies. The EpiPen only had one competitor at the start of this year, the Auvi-Q created by Sanofi, a French pharmaceutical company, who had an issue with dosage delivery and was put on major recall back in February. Sanofi has not produced any Auvi-Q’s since that recall. Thus, there is no competition for the EpiPen.

Looks like those of us with one or more experienced anaphylaxic episodes and need EpiPens are in for another shock: public outrage and congressional inquires notwithstanding, or Mylan now offering their own “generic” substitute (at half the cost), I predict little or nothing will bring down the price of this life-saving device to something affordable and reasonable, and we will see a significant increase in the number of deaths due to the inability of people to pay the price outright or the increase in insurance premiums or co-pays.

I know one person who doesn’t have a problem paying, should she need an EpiPen. 

Since 2007, when Mylan acquired EpiPen, Heather Bresch, chief executive officer of Mylan, has had a pay raise from $2,453,456 to $18,931,068 a year, a 671% increase. Last week, she sold 100,200 of her shares in the company for more than $5 million.

Too bad my EpiPen can’t protect me from people like her or her company.

– Bill

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