With all of the news surrounding the recent EpiPen® price-gouging scandal, an obvious and unfortunate question arises: Will some American child have to die to before the billion-dollar company, Mylan, has a change of heart and lowers EpiPen prices?
Many people know EpiPens as life-saving, and that’s because they are. EpiPens deliver epinephrine to someone suffering from anaphylaxis, a quick and severe allergic reaction. Without the dose of epinephrine, anaphylaxis can lead to death. EpiPens are very effective, but the problem is that devices expire after 1 year. Schools in some states will not let children with allergies attend school if they have an expired Epi-Pen.
In the U.S., the tragic truth is that some children with debilitating allergies are walking around with EpiPens that are no longer potent enough to work effectively. The question is: Do we want to be a country where children are at needless risk of using questionable medicine? In the wake of the money-grubbing price-hikes on EpiPens, this is a new and terrifying reality for many Americans.
There Is No Good Reason for a Price-Hike
It hasn’t always been like this. In 2007, the price of an EpiPen was $57. In 2011, the price was $164. This year, an EpiPen will cost some Americans over $600. Since Mylan acquired the EpiPen from the German company Merck in 2007, the cost of the life-saving device has leapt by 1,000 percent.
This means that a family with 1 allergic child who wants 2 kits – 1 for the house, 1 for the child to keep with them at all times – is going to have to spend over $1,000 to keep their kids safe for a pair of devices that had cost just over $300 5 years ago.
In Canada, by comparison, an EpiPen costs $145 — a fact that has not been lost on parents with their back against the wall. That’s right: A drug which is not new and not hard to produce is 4 times more expensive in the United States than it is in Canada.
The reason behind the price spike? It’s greed, plain and simple. In fact, it’s incredibly difficult to find any nuance in the case of Mylan’s shady CEO and the heartless board of directors who okayed price-hike after price-hike.
The Cost of Mylan CEO Heather Bresch
Since Bresch took the helm at Mylan, it’s not just the Epi-Pen which jumped in price. In a June research note, Wells-Fargo reported that “Mylan had raised prices by more than 20 percent on 24 products, and by more than 100 percent on 7 products.”
The suspicious increases, some as high as 500 percent, were, according to Wells-Fargo, “beacons for scrutiny.” If the banks are asking for more scrutiny, it’s obvious that something must be dreadfully wrong.
The only thing keeping pace with the price of Mylan’s drugs is Bresch’s compensation. Since 2008, Bresch has lined her pockets. But as Andrew B. Palumbo, a father to 2 daughters with allergies, reminds the CEO in an powerful open letter:
“There is no comparable competitor on the market. You know this and we know this. So you hike up the price and we pay. You increase it a few months later and, yet again, we pay. And on and on it goes.
You claim that lowering the price of EpiPens would be a hardship for Mylan, yet your salary has increased over 670% since you first acquired the product nine years ago. With an annual salary of $19 million, it seems that there is no level of compensation great enough to satiate your desire to acquire more wealth.”
The sky-high salary Bresch pocketed last year is the result of making Mylan shareholders lots of money, true, but as Palumbo points out, every dollar she makes is coming out of the pocket of families with life-threatening allergies.
How many people are struggling to come up with the thousands of dollars to afford enough insanely priced EpiPens? How many children are now depending on expired EpiPens because a new one is prohibitively expensive?
PR Spin Keeps the Conversation on the “Crisis” and Not the Cronies Causing It
According to Bresch, it’s a different world. Instead of a crook, she is a “long-term, committed partner to the allergy community.” In her public statement, she doesn’t mention her massive payday derived from jacking up prices, rather she wants to “meaningfully address the U.S. healthcare crisis.”
Indeed, the U.S. Healthcare system could be seen by many as being “in crisis,” but reckless behavior like hers is only fueling the problem. In the last decade, many Americans have had to get used to corporate crooks who are good at spinning a negative story into something positive. With effective PR, malicious individuals keep the conversation off of themselves and refocus it on other companies.
For years, bad individuals at the top have been able to use their companies as a shield, protecting their greed from the public eye.
There are 43 million Americans at risk for anaphylaxis, according to Mylan. As CEO of a company with a monopoly on the drug which keeps them safe, Bresch has responsibilities. She has to ask herself if all the money is worth it. Is raking in profits worth putting 43 million Americans at unnecessary risk?
Mylan’s “Discount Programs” Are Not a Cure
Bresch and Mylan have proposed so-called “discount programs,” but these token steps have been described, in a letter from 20 U.S. Senators, as merely a “complex shell game.” Such programs simply transfer the price burden to government, employers, and ultimately back to consumers.
All of this is meant to disguise the plain truth: allergic reaction can kill someone in minutes. With a functioning EpiPen, that reaction can be neutralized instantly. There simply isn’t time for a slow debate where special-interests and lobbyists keep prices exorbitant and alternative medicines off the market.
Bresch has the power to lower the price today. Congress has the power to make sure this type of behavior is punished instead of rewarded with millions of dollars.
Meanwhile, there are 43 million waiting for a solution. Will one of them have to die a preventable death in order for Bresch — and Mylan — to do what we all know is right?