Makers of EpiPen Announce Generic Version at a Price That's Still Criminal

epipenWhen the pharmaceutical company that makes EpiPens recently doubled the price of the life-saving medication to over $600 for a pack of two, parents of kids with severe allergies (myself included) responded with shock and outrage. And now it seems as if Mylan has heard our complaints -- except the solution the company is offering isn't much of a solution at all: a generic (and identical) version of the drug that will cost half the price. In other words, that's $300 for two doses of a drug that literally means the difference between life and death for countless children ... and $300 is still a prohibitively high price for countless families.


EpiPens are an absolute necessity for anyone at risk of going into anaphylactic shock. As anyone who's ever experienced a severe allergic reaction (or watched it happen to somebody else) knows, this type of potentially deadly physical response happens fast -- so fast that delaying treatment for minutes or even seconds could easily be fatal. EpiPens are auto-injectors, which means that anyone (a non-medically trained parent, teacher, or even a kid) can administer the medication without fear of getting the dosage wrong or fumbling with a syringe. If you have a child with, say, a serious peanut allergy (like I do), you are likely in possession of multiple EpiPens: One for your kid's school. One for your house. One for your purse. Because you can never be too careful. But even at $300 per pack, many families won't have the option of being as careful as they need to be -- and that's a crime.

That's a crime especially because Mylan will still be profiting greatly from the "discounted" generic version of the drug, just as the company's been profiting greatly from EpiPens since it acquired the product in 2007 (and began increasing the price). For the record, according to the New York Times, manufacturing costs for EpiPens are believed to be "far less" than $300. 

Robert Weissman, president of the consumer group Public Citizen, spoke out against Mylan's recent move in a statement, saying:

The weirdness of a generic drug company offering a generic version of its own branded but off-patent product is a signal that something is wrong. In short, today's announcement is just one more convoluted mechanism to avoid plain talk, admit to price gouging and just cut the price of EpiPen.

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Lawmakers agree that something needs to be done. Shortly before Mylan announced that it would be making a generic EpiPen, the US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform began an investigation into the product's price hike. In a letter to Heather Bresch, chief executive of Mylan, the committee spoke of the company's "virtual monopoly over the epinephrine auto-injector market," adding, "While families and schools are struggling to keep up with your company's unreasonable price increases, Mylan has profited richly from its pricing strategy."

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As a human being, I'm disgusted by this horrific display of corporate greed; as a mom, I can't stop thinking about the last time my son was rushed to the emergency room for a reaction he had to a cookie he ate at a friend's house (a cookie his friend didn't know had cashews in it). I didn't think to send an EpiPen with my son that day because his friend's mom knew about his nut allergy, but, as I learned that day, kids are kids and mistakes happen -- and thankfully, his friend's house was just a few minutes away from the hospital. But that incident was a reminder that kids like my son NEED EpiPens, and they need ENOUGH EpiPens. We were lucky that day. But that doesn't mean every kid is going to be lucky every time, and thanks to Mylan, the odds just got a lot worse. 

Let's all hope that Mylan finally cracks under all the pressure from consumers and actually does something in their best interest. Charging this much for a medication this crucial is beyond unconscionable -- in fact, it should be illegal.


Image via kiwinky/Flickr

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