If you have a serious allergy, you’ll be familiar with the life-saving capabilities of an EpiPen. A single jab can drastically help reverse a potentially deadly allergic reaction. It should be readily available to everyone who might need one, but sadly that might not be realistic for many after a recent outrageous price increase of the product.
All the current controversy kicked off after Mylan, the company that makes EpiPens, raised their prices by — wait for it — 400%. Since 2007, the price of an EpiPen has gone from about $100 for a two-pack to over $600. It’s a monumental spike. Considering healthcare coverage is not uniform for all Americans, this cost will affect all patients differently, but for some this change in cost has made the crucial health care component financially out of reach.
And so naturally, the public is upset. Sarah Jessica Parker, who had a relationship with Mylan and whose son has a severe peanut allergy, recently cut ties with the company and even took to Instagram to share her frustration regarding the situation. But she’s not the only one. People on Twitter have been having a field day over the price jump.
To combat critics, the company quickly followed up with a somewhat bizarre series of solutions. First, they announced a price cut for qualifying patients. For families falling 400 percent under the federal poverty level (families of four with a household income of $97,200 or less), an EpiPen will be free. If you are above that income level but still paying out-of-pocket, Mylan announced they will issue a $300 coupon for a two-pack. Which is a 50 percent price cut, but still $200 more than it was back in 2007.
As if this wasn’t all confusing enough, when the public didn’t willingly accept their resolution, Mylan went ahead and announced yet ANOTHER solution: They’re now releasing a generic version of the EpiPen. The generic version will cost a fraction, coming in at $300 for a two-pack. It has not yet been revealed what that cost will look like once insurers are involved. Why you would purchase Mylan’s name brand EpiPen when Mylan’s generic version (that is, just to be clear, made by the exact same company) is said to be identical is a bit of a mystery.
But here’s the real question: How does something like this happen in the first place? Mylan’s CEO Heather Bresch recently made an appearance on CNBC to attempt to explain the issue. She told the show’s host that, while the new price is $608, Mylan walks away with $274 per pen. So where does the rest of the money go?The other $334 is divided between pharmacy benefit managers, insurers, wholesalers and pharmacy retailers. Bresch has repeatedly blamed the price spike on high-deductible health plans, which tend to create higher out-of-pocket costs for patients. Since she appeared on CNBC, the other parties involved have challenged her price breakdown, stating it’s not actually accurate.
So what happens now? The generic version of the EpiPen is supposed to become available within the next few weeks. If you’re in need of one around then, that’ll be the cheapest option. Depending on your coverage, it could end up costing less than $300 out-of-pocket. But it doesn’t look like this is the end of this debacle. Big name politicians are now getting involved. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have already spoken against Mylan. Additionally, the Congressional House Oversight Committee has launched an investigation into the price surge.
Whether the new, insanely high price will remain is uncertain. But what’s now been made blindingly obvious is that the country’s health care system needs some serious amendments.
How has the EpiPen’s price increase affected you? Share with us on Twitter @BritandCo.
(Photo via Joe Raedle/Getty)