Home » Current Affairs » Price rise for anti-allergy EpiPen sparks furore in USA

Price rise for anti-allergy EpiPen sparks furore in USA

File photo of an EpiPen epinephrine auto-injector, a Mylan product, in Hendersonville, Texas, USA. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski, File)

The pharmaceutical company Mylan has been taking on a boatload of vituperation  and rightfully so for a 500% hike in the price of its lifesaving EpiPen injector, which reverses allergic reactions.

Percentage of People in USA with Food Allergies :-

The number of people in the U.S. with food allergies is skyrocketing. 15 million Americans, 6 million of which are children now have food allergies. A life-threatening food allergic reaction now sends someone to the E.R. once every three minutes in the U.S.

Importance of EpiPen

For someone with a food allergy or who is allergic to insect bites as well, an EpiPen can mean the difference between life and death. An EpiPen is an injectable form of epinephrine which is the ONLY lifesaving medication available at this time that can quickly reverse an allergic reaction.

Price of Life Saving Drug :-

The price of this lifesaving medication has been skyrocketing in the past few years leaving many worrying how or if they will be able to even carry something that is their only form of life support if there was to be an allergic reaction. I have heard story after story of parents who went to pick up their Epipens and how drastically the price had changed from the last refill from approximately $50-100 to now over $600 to 700. That is with insurance. That is outrageous. Some families have more than one person with allergies and need to get several sets. How can anyone be expected to be able to afford this?

Unaffordable

That has rendered EpiPens unaffordable to many sufferers, who must replace them each year – and is costing the government huge sums to stock schools with them and fund insurance programmes which pay for them, the lawmakers added.

Profiteering and Monopoly:-

A five-fold price hike for EpiPen, which allergy sufferers use to counteract life-threatening reactions, has made Mylan the newest drug manufacturer to come under attack in the United States for profiteering.

Mylan Pharmaceuticals, which holds a near-monopoly position on the epinephrine injectors used by millions against severe allergic attacks, was assailed by two powerful US senators for pumping up the price over six years from US$100 to more than US$500.

Mylans Defense:

In part because defense of its deal was so transparently self-serving. Its CEO, Heather Bresch, daughter of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), wrung her hands over the anguish she suffered in deciding to skip out on the company’s obligations as a U.S. corporation. She told the New York Times, “You can’t maintain competitiveness by staying at a competitive disadvantage. I mean you just can’t.” Credulously, the Times regurgitated that she made the decision “reluctantly, and she genuinely seems to mean it.”

Mylan defended itself, saying most who buy EpiPen pay little or nothing as it is covered by insurance, and that it has distributed free EpiPens to more than 65,000 schools since 2012.

But it also blamed the rising costs of insurance, and rising insurance deductibles and co-pays, for the complaints. “This current and ongoing shift has presented new challenges for consumers, and now they are bearing more of the cost,” it said in a statement.

EpiPen Syringe:

Should Mylan be believed? Let’s judge it by its marketing of the EpiPen. The spring-loaded syringe-like device is designed to deliver a measured dose of epinephrine, which instantly reverses the swelling, breathing problems and other manifestations of severe reactions to peanuts, bee stings and other allergens. The pens come in two-packs in order to provide a second dose if needed. Families with allergy-prone kids have to lay in a supply of several packs, say for home and school, and replace them once a year when they expire.

History :-

Since acquiring rights to the product in 2007 when a two-pack sold for about $100,  and still  2009, pharmacies paid slightly more than $100 for a 2-pack of EpiPens. Mylan has relentlessly raised its price, to more than $600 now. That can place the product out of reach of families whose insurance doesn’t fully cover the cost, forcing them to use expired pens or resort to hand-injections, which can be dangerous.

Manufacturing Cost and Profits :-

  • The price increase isn’t driven by Mylan’s costs. The manufacturing cost is essentially pennies per device, and the active ingredient, epinephrine, is a generic drug that has been in use for decades, so the company isn’t working down any research and development costs. Instead, it’s simply profiteering from market dynamics: Its main competitor, a product made by Sanofi, was taken off the market last year because of manufacturing defects. Another potential rival, from the generics company Teva, hasn’t yet won approval from the Food and Drug Administration
  • Mylan’s price-gouging has enraged patients and doctors and created whitecaps on Capitol Hill. On Monday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), ranking member of the Senate antitrust subcommittee, asked the Federal Trade Commission to look into the matter. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, also has questioned the increases.
  • “There does not appear to be any justification for the continual price increases of EpiPen,” Klobuchar wrote the FTC. “Manufacturing costs for the product have been stable and Mylan does not need to recover the product’s research and development costs. … Not only is this alarming price increase unjustified, it puts life-saving treatment out of reach to the consumers who need it most.”
  • Mylan rationalizes the EpiPen’s price as the fair cost of “a life-saving drug,” as Bresch told Wall Street analysts this month. Under the circumstances, she said, “I think that you can see it falls as not an expensive product.” She did acknowledge, however, that “as employers shift more cost to employees and make that everything has got to come out of pocket before you hit your deductible … you’re seeing a lot of noise around EpiPen.”
  • “I am concerned that the substantial price increase could limit access to a much-needed medication,” senior Republican Senator Charles Grassley, chair of the powerful Judiciary Committee, said in a letter to the company.
  • He added that when children and others covered by government health insurance buy EpiPens, “the taxpayers are picking up the tab for this medication.”

According to media reports, an increasing number of allergy sufferers are creating their own injectable epinephrine using syringes because of the EpiPen price hikes.

Families’ frustration with Mylan’s EpiPen is exacerbated by the fact that there’s no generic version of the medicine, even though researchers discovered the active compound in 1900.

Profits :-

salaries of the top executives.
salaries of the top executives.

The company has told analysts that the higher prices and stronger market hold have contributed significantly to its strong income gains this year.

Mylan recorded $847 million in net income last year on sales of $9.4 billion. The EpiPen was a significant contributor, with sales of $1 billion.

The company has tried to have it both ways in relation to its inversion deal. Let’s examine Bresch’s assertion that the company found it just impossible to “maintain competitiveness” under U.S. tax rules. At a 2015 forum sponsored by Fortune Magazine, she griped that “there is an unlevel playing field in our country. We really penalize U.S.-based companies.”

Over the previous two years, its sales had increased 12.7% and profits 16%; among its big competitors paying lower taxes, British-based GlaxoSmithKline had gained only 3.14% in sales and 11.23% in profits. Israel-based Teva’s sales had risen 11%, and its profits declined 54%. Israel’s top corporate tax rate is 26.5%, the equivalent top U.S. federal rate is 35%.

But Mylan didn’t pay that top rate, of course. Almost no U.S. corporation does; CEOs use the statutory rate as a political boogeyman. Mylan’s effective tax rate had been only 16.2% in 2013, 20% in 2012 and 17.7% in 2011.

Something Needs to done :-

Epinephrine is the only LIFESAVING medication available and it is criminal that a company knowing that one needs this to stay alive can make it completely inaccessible to so many because of greed. When Mylan is paying out BILLIONS in salaries to their top executives and leaving us breaking piggy banks to help kids alive

Something needs to be done. They need to be stopped. How can a life be measured in $$$ and Rupees? How can they not care? What can we do? It is time we all do what we can now!!!

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