Epi-Pen: The Cost to Save a Life

Chances are, you’ve heard of the grossly inflated price of
the Epi-Pen, a life-saving medical device carried by many who suffer from
allergies.
Due to the efforts of a small but vocal army of “allergy
moms,” the general public now knows what we’ve been upset about for years:
Mylan, the company that manufactures Epi-Pens, has been raising the price to
the point where many families struggle to pay for this medicine (1).
However, the question remains. Why did Mylan keep raising
the prices (in 2009, the price was roughly $100; now, it is $600)? The CEO,
Heather Bresch – a U.S. Senator’s daughter who makes $18 million a year –
hasn’t given a clear answer. As a comparison, Epi-Pens cost about $100 a set in
Canada, where the government regulates the cost. (2,3)
While I don’t know why a set of Epi-Pens costs so much, I do
know this:  When my child was blue and
limp, in the throes of an anaphylactic reaction to nuts, epinephrine saved his
life.
Put bluntly, he needs access to an Epi-Pen every second of
every day in case he comes in contact with his allergens (tree nuts, peanuts
and sesame seeds). We don’t carry them, stock them in our home and provide them
to his school “just in case.” We do so because he will die without immediate
access to this life-saving medication.
For this, we pay hundreds of dollars a year –with health
insurance. These pens, really the only “game in town” to deliver epinephrine to
allergy patients, expire after a year or so, too. So this is something my
family, and many other allergy families, has to budget for.
And most families have multiple sets: One to carry when out
of the home, one for the home and one for school/daycare. That is hundreds or
even thousands of dollars a year, depending on your insurance coverage, for a
needed medicine to keep your child alive.
Maybe that seems excessive to a non-allergy family, but for
those of us who have watched our children experience anaphylaxis, it is
necessary. Seconds count, and you need an Epi-Pen readily available at all times. 
So why do I keep saying Epi-Pen? Isn’t there another option?
The truth is, not really. Epi-Pen’s major competitor, the Auvi-Q, was recalled
last year and is no longer manufactured. That has left only one real
alternative that few people know about and have used. This alternative, which
some insurance companies won’t even cover, also isn’t readily stocked by
pharmacies and isn’t listed in my son’s school paperwork. The nurses and staff
at his school aren’t trained to use it. So to us, it isn’t a viable alternative
– at least not for now.
Today, Mylan announced it would help subsidize the cost of
the Epi-Pen via a rebate, due to rising scrutiny and public outcry. But they
didn’t lower the cost of the Epi-Pen and a rebate is only good for some
families. (2)
Maybe you know someone with a life-threatening allergy who
needs an Epi-Pen. Maybe you don’t. Either way, price gouging by a major
pharmaceutical company raking in millions of dollars on the backs of people who
just want to keep their children safe is abhorrent.
For many of us allergy families, we’ve already paid far too
much for our Epi-Pens because school has or will start soon and we have needed
to get this life-saving medication and all the reams of paperwork ready for
teachers and administrators who are tasked with keeping our children safe. 
We couldn’t wait – so we paid. Or we couldn’t pay, so we
pray.

CITATIONS:
3. https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2016/08/25/canada-shines-in-light-of-us-epipen-furor-editorial.html
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