Costs of the EpiPen: When Big Pharma sticks it to patients
The rising cost of prescription drugs is something that can affect every American. That massive pharmaceutical companies can price patients out of the market is shameful. That is what is happening across America. Sick people are put in a position where they cannot fill much needed prescriptions because of the cost.
The latest controversy swirls around the drugmaker Mylan. Mylan bought the rights to the EpiPen in 2007. The EpiPen is an auto-injector filled with epinephrine. It is used to prevent anaphylactic shock caused by allergic responses to insect bites, certain foods and other triggers. Anaphylactic shock is life threatening. When they procured the EpiPen the cost was $56.64 for a package of two and now that price has increased to $600. Other medications that Mylan has raised prices on include Ursodiol, used to treat gallstones went up 542%, Tolterodine, which treats overactive bladders increased 56% and Dicyclomine, which treats patients with irritable bowel syndrome, saw a price increase of 400%. Those are just a few. Keep in mind that while the prices were raised to exorbitant levels, the CEO of Mylan, Heather Bresch saw a pay increase during her employment of 671%. Her pay went from $2,453,456 to $18,931,068 a year.
We saw a similar situation with the increase in cost of Daraprim. This drug is used by some AIDS and transplant patients. Before 2010 one pill cost $1, then Turing, the makers of the pill, raised the price to $750. Because of public outrage and pressure from government officials the price was reduced to $375. There is a long history of the drug companies holding patients health care hostage. In December of 2013. The FDA approved a drug that can cure 90% of people with hepatitis C, but the 12 week treatment costs $84,000 which many patients cannot afford.
In other developed countries drug costs average half as much as American patients pay and in many cases the difference is even more. In the U.S. it is illegal to buy drugs from other countries.
So, what is Congress doing about it? Not enough. While there are members, both Republican and Democrat, that would like to see more done, the change is slow. Drug lobbyists work very hard to make sure that when legislation is introduced that it does not pass. They also are big campaign donors. Combined they have a lot of power and that power, thus far has thwarted the efforts made to restrict the rising costs of prescriptions.
Getting back to the EpiPen, Mylan’s abuse of the system goes even deeper. Back in 2014, Mylan bought the much smaller generic specialty drug company, Abbott Labs. The $5 billion dollar purchase allowed Mylan to “move its headquarters” to the Netherlands. Most of Mylan’s offices remain in Pittsburgh, PA. Those offices still enjoy the benefits of taxpayer funded services such as police, fire and other city services. Mylan pays NO CORPORATE TAXES in the US. By taking advantage of tax inversion laws, they pay a much lower corporate tax rate in the Netherlands.
This is how screwed up the current system is. Mylan right now has monopolized the market on products that are similar to the EpiPen. Many patients are reverting to using epinephrine ampules and filling their own syringes.
There are many facets to the problems within the prescription drug market, pricing, tax inversion, the flow of money from pharmaceutical companies through our political system and the fact that Medicare cannot negotiate with the drug companies to lower our costs.
Just this morning, Heather Bresch. was a guest CNBC where she addressed Mylan’s announcement that they would offer a savings card that would cover up to $300 of the price of the EpiPen as well as expand on a program that helps those that have no insurance coverage and cannot afford the EpiPen. Trust me when I say this was not done out of the goodness of their heart. Nope, not at all. The reason that they responded was that Mylan shares of stock dropped 4.7% this past Tuesday and they have seen a loss of over 11% this past year.
I also want to point out that the increased costs of the EpiPen was not brought to our attention by the news media, but by a bunch of moms on Facebook who were hit with the $600 bill when they were getting their kids ready for the school year.
Protecting our citizens from the greed of the medical industry is a fight that I will take on. In my business working with the developmentally disabled, I see the struggle that many face trying to make sure that they have access to the health services that they need and that includes purchasing prescriptions. This is an issue that affects veterans, seniors and the disabled disproportionately. This is also an issue that cannot be solved with blanket legislation, each arm of the problem should be addressed individually and I am willing to help see that that happens.