Why does Mylan’s EpiPen cost so much?
That was a question many parents of food allergic children found themselves asking this past August, as a flurry of news reports revealed that the standard two-pack now costs patients as much as $600 out of pocket. The device, a type of epinephrine auto-injector, looks like an oversized marker. Inside is a mechanism that pops out a short needle and delivers epinephrine in three seconds or less when it is pushed firmly against one’s body (preferably the outer, upper thigh). Epinephrine – a hormone also known as adrenaline – is the preferred substance for halting and reversing a severe allergic reaction, called anaphylaxis. Originally created as a tool for delivering emergency nerve gas treatment on Cold War-era battlefields, the device is now considered a necessity for people with food allergies.
The EpiPen pricing controversy is one of many events that have drawn attention to the escalating price of medical objects and procedures in the past year. Turing Pharmaceuticals’ Daraprim pricing scandal beginning in the fall of 2015 (about which I’ve written previously for Somatosphere) and Theranos’ meltdown earlier in 2016 on the news that the high-priced tests they performed were not as advertised has kept the issue of high drug prices in the public eye. In the EpiPen pricing case, many journalists and members of the food allergy community have critiqued the credentials and motives of Mylan CEO Heather Bresch. From analyses of her possibly fraudulent MBA to critiques of her compensation to her political connections via her US Senator father, her rise to corporate stardom on the strength of EpiPen revenue has been put under the microscope.