The seedy world of pharmaceutical company excess has a new culprit in the headlines – Mylan, makers of the EpiPen. These leeches have drastically raised the price of their life saving allergy device from $56 for a single dose in 2007 to around $600 for two doses today in the U.S. (photo – President Obama signing the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act)
According to Bloomberg, annual sales EpiPen are around $1 billion for this formerly US-based company, now headquartered in the Netherlands to lower to lower its U.S. taxes. And Mylan’s CEO, Heather Bresch, salary has jumped from $2 million to $18 million in 8 years. Bresch is the daughter of a Democrat senator.
Even after insurance, a customer can be out $400 or more for a pack of two pens. They are only sold in the U.S. in two packs partly because in 2010, there were some federal guidelines that said patients who have severe allergies have to carry two pens rather than just one. Cross the border to Canada and you can buy one pen for $100, while in the UK you can pick up one for $35.
Cost to the company of the drug inside the pen – less than $1.
Bloomberg called Mylan’s marketing of the EpiPen “a textbook case in savvy branding.”
How did they do it? The company poured billions into a marketing campaign to make EpiPen a household name (including hiring actress Sarah Jessica Parker for supposedly non-profit ads). That campaign included lobbying Congress to get EpiPens in schools (about $4 million in 2012 and 2013 on lobbying for access to EpiPens generally and for legislation).
Mylan also was the top corporate sponsor of a group called Food Allergy Research & Education that was the key lobbyist pushing for the bill encouraging schools to stock epinephrine auto-injectors, of which EpiPen has a virtual monopoly. Due to this successful lobbying, in 2013, Obama signed the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act.
The shocking increase has lawmakers alarmed. Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee, is demanding Mylan explain the increase. Meanwhile, Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar is calling for a Federal Trade Commission investigation into Mylan. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) approved a resolution last year to lobby Congress on EpiPen pricing. And a petition to Congress protesting the price increase, called “Stop the EpiPen Price Gouging,” has emerged on social media.
As the New York Post notes, adding to the sticker shock is the fact that most patients need multiple EpiPens. Patients are encouraged to have two on hand at all times, because user error or a particularly strong reaction might require a second dose. Plus, schools and extracurricular programs often require unexpired EpiPens to be permanently stored at their location, and they are only good for one year.
According to Consumer Reports there is a cheaper alternative. “The authorized generic of Adrenaclick (epinephrine auto-injector), is a cheaper option—we found it for $142 at Walmart and Sam’s Club using a coupon from GoodRx. While generic Adrenaclick isn’t the same technology and is used differently than EpiPen, both auto-injectors contain the same drug, epinephrine, available in the same dosages, says Barbara Young, Pharm.D., of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.”