National News

The Epipen Pricing Scandal

epipen

Andrew Specht was only 7 years old when he found out that he was deathly allergic to bee stings. He was playing in the backyard of the parent’s home, climbing trees and just simply enjoying life. As he was climbing his favorite tree, Andrew felt a strange pain in his hand. When he looked, he saw two bees near his hand. He climbed down the tree, and as he walked back home to tell his mother, he began feel to dizzy and his breathing was irregular. The small bump on his hand had swollen and expanded to his entire palm. He continued walking to the house until he finally collapsed. His mother saw him struggling and as soon as he fell she called the neighbor, who was an EMT. The man raced over, discovered he had been stung by bees and injected young Andrew with an epinephrine needle. Specht, who now is an English major at Saint Leo, has been using an Epipen ever since.

EpiPen is an injection containing epinephrine, a chemical that narrows blood vessels and opens airways in the lungs. These effects can reverse severe low blood pressure, wheezing, severe skin itching, hives, and other symptoms of anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is the medical term for an allergic reaction. EpiPens are used to treat anything from insect stings or bites, foods, to drugs. Epinephrine is also used to treat exercise-induced anaphylaxis such as an asthma attack. Usually, people with these severe allergies carry the EpiPen on them at all times and inject it into the muscle of the outer thigh if needed.

Through the years, there have been great medical advancements and inventions that changed the course of history, such as penicillin and vaccinations. However, another great invention is the EpiPen. The availability of the EpiPen, or epinephrine auto-injectors, has saved countless lives since it was approved by the FDA in 1987, according to Business Insider. However, the price of the once affordable pen has skyrocketed recently.

This life-saving medical tool, which was once used for military purposes, is a part of many people’s lives and was acquired by Mylan, a pharmaceutical company in 2007. Epipen is an effective and simple way to save people from anaphylactic shock.  However, over the years, the ability to afford it has become a huge problem. According to Business Insider, since 2007 Mylan has upped the price of a two-pack of Epipens from $93.88 to $608.61, which is more than a 500 percent price increase. This resulted in an immediate outcry in the EpiPen community.

The CEO of Mylan, Heather Bresch, is believed by some to be the mastermind behind this extreme price escalating. Bresch, the daughter of Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, started working as a clerk in a factory owned by Mylan – a job her father found for her – in 1992, reported fortune.com. Currents reports, by money. cnn.com show that Mylan went from a yearly revenue of about $10 million to a huge rise this year pushing $25 million.

David Maris, a Wells Fargo analyst, calculated the earnings and prices of Mylan and its EpiPen division. Business has undeniably been more than good for Mylan and Bresch, thanks mostly to the ever growing lucrativeness of the EpiPen. Ever since Mylan started raising the prices, the profit margin of the Mylan division that sells the drug has quadrupled, according to Maris and Wells Fargo’s findings.

“The company doesn’t understand the very emotional, very stressful situation parents are going through this back-to school season,” said Maris, according to money.cnn.com. “No one’s expecting Mylan to give away their products. But empathy is the most human emotion. And when you raise price year after year, by a lot, for a drug that’s life saving, it shows a complete lack of empathy.”

He is referring to parents who need to buy EpiPens for their children who have extremely bad allergies. The increasing price is making it difficult for these families to afford the EpiPen. Maris calls out Bresch and Mylan Pharmaceuticals for being inhumane, as money.cnn.com reports. Including Maris, many people believe that is rather insensitive to raise the price astronomically for a medical tool saves lives for both children and adults.

Many people are outraged including Andrew Specht, a senior, who has been using his pen since his first allergic reaction to bees since he was seven. In fact, some people wonder how the company can make a decision when they are aware that many people are in need of this life-saving drug but cannot afford it. This decision demonstrates the extent some companies are willing to reach to increase revenue.

“I don’t think it’s criminal but certainly unethical, and it’s kind of a problem whenever we have a monopoly and it’ unregulated,” said Dr. Ricky Scott, an assistant professor in the Department of Accounting, Economics, and Finance. “Certainly the company took advantage of the complexities in our medical system … This is an example where our system failed that they were allowed to increase the price so much and the people had no other option… Maybe we should have a law or better regulation to prevent this sort of thing from happening again.”

However, there are others who claim that Bresch is simply doing business. The increase of the price resulted in her company’s internal revenue doubling, according to money.cnn.com. From a business standpoint, this is a huge success.

“I am running a business. I am a for-profit business. I am not hiding from that,” said Bresch when asked by the New York Times about the huge rise in EpiPen prices. Increasing profit for Mylan is, in fact, Bresch’s job and is a reason she was promoted to CEO in 2012. To most wolves on Wall Street or business savvy individuals, the huge price increase is a smart move; however, to almost everyone else, it is ridiculous for the astronomical increase in price of the product.

To start solving this problem, the Senate called a hearing with Bresch. In this meeting, there were many questions asked but not as many answered. For example, Bresch stated that the company invested “$1 billion over this 8 years to provide access” to the product; however, she failed to answer how much the company made in those 8 years by stating that she does not have the cumulative number.  Also, when asked the reason as to why the prices were so shockingly high she didn’t back down from the price. She blamed the “complexity” of the health-care system for making it appear like Mylan reaps huge profits on EpiPen.

“I truly believe the story got ahead of the facts,” she said, commenting that Mylan makes a profit of only $100 per two-pack. However, in weeks prior to the hearing, Mylan instituted discounts. They began a discount method known as the savings card, which can cover up to $300, according to The Washington Post.

However, these cards are not available to everyone, including those who are on government health programs, such as Medicaid. In addition to the saving card, Mylan announced about a week following the saving cards release that “its U.S. subsidiary will launch the first generic to EpiPen Auto-Injector … at a list price of $300 per generic EpiPen two-pack carton.”

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