Epinephrine is a medication used to treat people who suffer from anaphylaxsis, severe allergic reactions that can result in death. The most common and efficient means of getting epinephrine into the body is via an Epipen. In August, the drug company Mylan raised the price of a pack of two Epipens from approximately $100 to over $600. The 500 percent increase in the price of Epipens left 3.6 million Americans without access to life-saving medication and with inadequate alternatives. Although Mylan has since reduced the cost to approximately $300, the company’s actions are inexcusable and largely unexplained.
Epipens are easy to use auto-injectors that dispense a small dosage of epinephrine via a needle to prevent severe and fatal allergic reactions, such as the closing of the airway when an allergic person is exposed to peanuts. Once epinephrine enters the system, the body’s muscles relax, opening airways and stopping cardiac arrest. Thus, in the event of contact with an allergen, Epipens are crucial emergency medical tools for both adults and children.
As a result of the drastic increase in the price of Epipens, many consumers cannot afford to regularly restock their supply. This means that people who could suffer from severe allergic reactions must risk going without having their emergency medication on hand.
The $600 price tag becomes a barrier between people and the medicine that they need, revealing Mylan’s greater interest in making profits than protecting the health of Americans and saving lives.
Business Insider reported that in CEO Heather Bresch’s hearing on Sept. 21 before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Mylan claimed that it only made a $100 profit on each pack of Epipens.
But, Bresch later revealed that this estimate was inaccurate. After accounting for Mylan’s actual tax rates, which were lower than Bresch originally reported, the recalculated profit margin was $160. The CEO’s initial dishonesty and failure to provide files about the company’s tax rates and profit margins reflect Mylan’s lacking transparency.
In what seemed to be an attempt at redemption, Bresch announced that Mylan will now sell Epipens at a reduced price. However, the company should not have proposed the unreasonable price of $600 in the first place if it can sell Epipens at half the price, $300,while still retaining profit.
Mylan will also pay $465 million to the Medicaid Drug Rebate program to make up for the higher rebate rates that, as a brand-name company, they should have been paying all along. These rebates will reduce the actual costs of products.
Given that the company’s gross profit is $1.7 billion, it is not paying nearly enough in refunds to customers.
Lowering prices is not the only thing that Mylan needs to do in order to resolve this issue. Full disclosure and honesty to consumers about the reasons behind the sudden hike in prices, as well a breakdown of where their money goes with each purchase, should be provided by the company.
This is the least that Mylan can do to repent for its jeopardization of American lives.