SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS/CBS SF) — The cost of life-saving EpiPens has soared 400% since its maker Mylan acquired the product in 2007, and now Congress wants to know why.
EpiPens inject epinephrine or adrenaline into patients experiencing a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. Anaphylactic shock can be triggered by allergies to a number of things including foods like peanuts and shellfish, insect bites, even latex. The reaction occurs quickly, and if untreated may prove fatal. Hundreds of people die every year from allergic reactions.
In 2008, a two-pack of EpiPens cost about $94. This May, the price was over $600.
The dose inside each syringe only costs about a dollar, but the delivery mechanism has become expensive. The injectors have to meet strict federal standards. Add to that, there is the marketing and advertising of the popular drug.
Mylan, which bought EpiPen from Merck, says families are buying high-deductible health plans, and so the costs for them go up.
But, Dr. David Kass, Professor of Health Economics at the University of Maryland wonders if it’s something else.
“The company owning the drug, and pricing it this way, Mylan Labs is primarily a generic drug company. About 85 percent of its revenues come from generic drugs that are off-patent, that are priced in a competitive market. At the moment, Epipen, for that particular application, has a monopoly,” Kass said.
The pharmaceutical company is run by U.S. Senator Joe Manchin’s (D-Virginia) daughter, Heather Bresch. The skyrocketing price of EpiPen happened during her tenure as CEO at Mylan since 2012. Bresch’s father has yet to comment on the subject.
Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut want the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Mylan for possible antitrust violations.
Hillary Clinton, whom Manchin has endorsed for president, called the increase “outrageous.”