Gauging the price of EpiPen: Too much regulation, or too little?
By Erin Stackowitz, Staff Writer
“We take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.” This quote by Cynthia Ozick is something that most Americans think pharmaceutical company executives need to hear the most. These executives stand confidently behind huge paychecks and are often unaware of the implications that even a slight increase in price could have on their patients. They seem to feed on the extreme vulnerabilities of millions of Americans that rely heavily on EpiPens daily. However, a question is raised: is it greediness and a lack of compassion in Big Pharma that causes them to spike vital medications, or are their hands are tied due to a recent overhaul in US healthcare?
The EpiPen is an auto-injector that delivers epinephrine, more commonly known as adrenaline, a hormone that is released by the adrenal glands and aids in the body’s fight or flight response. Ultimately, it helps the body respond to threats. Specifically, the EpiPen opens swollen airways and relaxes the muscles so sufferers from allergens have more time to receive medical attention. It is essential for anyone with a severe allergy, especially infants and school age children. The price of an EpiPen standard two-pack has risen gradually from $100 in 2009 to about $600 now. When purchased alone, epinephrine costs just a few dollars.
Most are blaming capitalist America for these spikes, seeing as this is not the first price gauge of medicine recently. There is a wave of supporters in demand for more regulations and stricter guidelines within pharmaceutical companies, but is that what got us here in the first place? The company that produces EpiPen, Mylan Pharmaceuticals, was able to increase pricing due to a lack of competition in the marketplace. There is no competitor to the EpiPen despite its absence of a patent for decades. The FDA and lobbyists have prevented competitors from entering the market. Another reason for its increase is that the US healthcare system has gone through a massive overhaul and previously, insurance coverage has masked the staggering price. Most were unaware of the price increases until insurance companies changed their premiums or deductibles jumped. Fortunately, Mylan has given coupons to consumers for co-payments on commercial insurance in the wake of the backlash and handed out 700,000 EpiPens to public schools for free.