Several U.S. senators are voicing their concerns regarding the recent price hike for Mylan NV’s EpiPen auto-injector for severe food allergies.
The cash price for an EpiPen has increased somewhere between 400 and 600 percent since Mylan acquired the product from Merck in 2007. Today, a pack of two epinephrine pens can cost hundreds of dollars retail, yet each pen contains only a $1 dose of the drug.
The price hike was publicized recently by food activist Robyn O’Brien, who was motivated by one of her children's severe food allergies. Along with calls for action from senators in what she is calling #EpiGate, O'Brien has posted images on her Facebook page of real prices families paid for the life-saving medication at pharmacies.
“One mom just dropped over $1,600 for two #EpiPen packs,” O’Brien wrote. “What do you go without in order to afford them?”
The New York Times reported one mother, Naomi Shulman, who considered forgoing her daughter's EpiPen, for which she paid a $100 copayment last year followed by a $400 copayment this summer.
“It’s very wrong,” Shulman said. “It’s gouging parents about their children’s lives. It’s not like letting them sniffle. It’s life or death.”
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Senator Charles Grassley, who heads the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, asked the company to explain the “steep price increase in the product in recent years,” in an August 22 letter to Mylan CEO Heather Bresch, saying that it could "limit access to a much-needed medication.”
Senator Amy Klobuchar, a ranking member of the Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights Subcommittee whose daughter carries an EpiPen, wrote a separate letter Monday asking the Federal Trade Commission to look into whether Mylan had done anything to deny competitors access to the market and further encourage a monopoly.
"This outrageous increase in the price of EpiPens is occurring at the same time that Mylan Pharmaceutical is exploiting a monopoly market advantage that has fallen into its lap,” Klobuchar said. “Patients all over the U.S. rely on these products, including my own daughter.”
A similar injector produced by Sanofi was recalled last year. The only current equivalent is the Adrenaclick pen, which costs half as much as the EpiPen. However, pharmacies cannot fill a prescription for EpiPen with Adrenaclick, as the latter is not a generic; there is currently no generic equivalent for EpiPen.
When Mylan first acquired the product, pharmacies paid less than $100 per two-pen set. In 2009, the price was closer to $103; in 2013, the price had reached over $260. This May, the price spiked to $608.61, according to data from Elsevier Clinical Solutions’ Gold Standard Drug Database.
Researchers estimate that up to 15 million Americans suffer from food allergies, including one in every 13 children, according to Food Allergy Research & Education, Inc.
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EpiPen image via Wikimedia Commons