Any parent who has a child with food allergies knows how vital an EpiPen can be. But as the price of the life-saving drug has increased to more than $600 for a two pack, some families can’t afford the injection that helps reverse an allergic reaction.
Congress wants to know why the price has increased so drastically in recent years, by a whopping 450 percent since 2004. That year, a dose cost $100 (adjusted for inflation). Now, two doses cost more than $600. The rights to EpiPen were acquired by pharmaceutical company Mylan in 2007, and the company successfully lobbied in 2010 to require the devices be sold in pairs.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, Iowa-R., wrote Mylan chief executive Heather Bresch inquiring about the price hike of the popular drug used to counter anaphylaxis.
“Access to epinephrine can mean the difference between life and death, especially for children,” Grassley wrote. “In the case of EpiPens, I am concerned that the substantial price increase could limit access to a much-needed medication. In addition, it could create an unsafe situation for patients as people, untrained in medical procedures, are incentivized to make their own kits from raw materials.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who said her daughter relies on EpiPens, demanded that Congress hold a hearing to investigate the “outrageous increase in the price” of the device.
Bresch, whose father is Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., has not publicly responded to public outcry over the price increase of a drug so necessary for millions with allergies. But Mylan released a statement Monday blaming the cost increase on insurance changes.
“With the current changes in the healthcare insurance landscape, an increasing number of people and families have enrolled in high deductible health plans, and deductible amounts continue to rise. This current and ongoing shift has presented new challenges for consumers, and now they are bearing more of the cost,” Mylan said. “This new change to the industry is not an easy challenge to address, but we recognize the need and are committed to working with customers and payors to find solutions to meet the needs of the patients and families we serve.”
The actual medicine inside the pens only costs about $1, but Mylan has a patent on the injection mechanism that gets the drug epinephrine quickly into the system of someone having an allergic reaction. Competitor allergy pens have failed to take hold, and the only alternative to EpiPen currently available is a generic version called Adrenaclick.
But that version is administered differently, so doctors are hesitant to recommend it for fear a nurse or teacher wouldn’t be able to administer the drug correctly fast enough in an emergency situation. Following a 2013 law passed by Congress, it is common for schools to keep EpiPens on hand in case a student eats something they shouldn’t have.
According to EpiPen’s website, as many as 8 million Americans have food allergies, ranging from nuts to shellfish to eggs, some of which are life threatening without medication.
Bresch, who is responsible for making EpiPens a financial success for the pharmaceutical company, has received higher compensation as the drug’s price has increased. According to Securities and Exchange Commission filings, her total compensation increased 671 percent from 2007 to 2015, topping out at $18,931,068 million last year.
She is responsible for a 2014 deal that allowed Mylan to incorporate in the Netherlands, a business practice that allows the company to decrease its U.S. tax bill. Bresch also was found to have fabricated a graduate degree from West Virginia University on her resume. An investigation revealed the school, headed by family friend Mike Garrison, had altered her transcript to make it look like she had earned a master’s in business administration.