With the price increase of the live-saving EpiPen from $100 per two-pack to over $600 per two-pack last week (conveniently in August when most parents who have children with allergies are set to purchase their necessary supplies of the drug before school starts), the company responsible for the hike, Mylan Inc., is backing away from their role in the price gouge, placing the majority of the blame on other players in the pharmaceutical game instead. This includes insurance companies, wholesalers, and pharmacy-benefit managers and retailers. CEO Heather Bresch continues to claim she did nothing wrong, despite receiving a $16.4 million per year salary increase as a direct result of her decision to raise the cost of the often life-or-death medication. In response to the nationwide outrage over her greed, Bresch tried to take the heat off herself by pointing to the “complexity and opaqueness of today’s branded pharmaceutical supply chain.” Some people in the industry did not take kindly to her remarks.
While on the damage-control express, Mylan, Inc. revealed it would implement measures to help reduce out-of-pocket costs by raising its previous limit of $100 to $300 on their co-pay savings card and make their patient assistance program accessible to more people. None of this, of course, changes the fact that the reasoning behind raising the price of the EpiPen, or any pharmaceutical drug, is based solely on lining the pockets of the already richest of the rich.
Increasing the price of prescription drugs is nothing new; it has been going on for decades, though seemingly not at the alarming rate (or monetary cost) it is today. With the continued possibility for generic alternatives to popular brand-name medicines, big drug companies are not willing to risk their share of the revenue, even when doing so has the potential to even out the undeniably biased playing field for the country’s most vulnerable populations. Never mind the fact that medicine is designed to treat everyone, rich or poor, who suffers from an ailment that requires their reliance on medicinal intervention, be it short-term or life-long (such as the case with the EpiPen.) However, EpiPen has the market cornered in this case. Which is in no way a coincidence.
When Martin Shkreli raised the price of the 62-year-old drug Daraprim (used to treat cancer and AIDS patients) from $13.50 to $750 PER PILL overnight, he made himself an easy target because he had no competition and therefore, no excusable reason to do so other than he’s an unapologetic leech who feeds off the blood (and countless millions of dollars) of others. His actions led the industry to brand him as “not like the rest” of the companies who raise prices because the drug he purchased hasn’t changed over the years; there have been no new scientific advances because Daraprim is effective as is. Concomitantly; claiming new price hikes and expensive drugs are the result of innovation in medicine, big pharma feels justified in charging exorbitant, impossible-to-afford prices for countless new drugs on the market.
The hormone epinephrine (used in the EpiPen to prevent anaphylaxis in severe allergy patients) was first isolated by Jokichi Takamine in 1901 and marketed in 1906. Not much has changed. So how then, does the industry explain this most recent hike in price?
Despite sales having continued to rise, Mylan Inc. released a statement that its prices have “changed over time to better reflect important product features and the value the product provides.” Translation: we know how much you need this, we know you can’t get it anywhere else, so we’re going to charge you as much as we want and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Even Shkreli, pariah extraordinaire that he is, expressed his arrogant displeasure over Mylan’s decision to hike the price of the EpiPen. Speaking to NBC News he said, “These guys are really vultures. What drives this company’s moral compass?”
When a guy like Martin Shkreli starts to question your moral compass, I think it’s safe to say it’s time to reevaluate your priorities Ms. Bresch.