For people with severe allergies, the EpiPen Auto-Injector, a prescription of epinephrine for emergency use, is a lifesaver. For Mylan NV, the manufacturer, it is a cash cow that in an $1 billion market with little competition. However, Mylan has become the new capitalist bad guy when its price increases forced more families to pay $600 out-of-pocket for two doses. The EpiPen maker has protested and introduced programs to help lower income patients pay for the medication, but the reality is that their pricing sticks it to users and everyone else with health insurance.
Mylan did not develop the EpiPen; it acquired the rights to sell the medication in 2007. Then, to capitalize on their investment, they raised EpiPen prices nearly 550 percent over the past eight years to $608.61 for two pens. This is not a case of supply and demand; it is a case of supplier taking advantage of demand to demand more.
Mylan faced the growing criticism over their pricing on Thursday and announced plans to help more patients cover part of their out-of-pocket costs. While that will help some lower income families, they did not change their pricing. So their stranglehold on the market means ensures that they will still make a profit from those sales and will collect the full price from everyone else.
The company’s press releases acknowledge how the changes in the insurance market have forced more patients to pay more for prescriptions. They noted that “Previously a patient may have paid a $25 co-pay for a prescription regardless of the product cost. Today, with a high deductible health plan, they must pay the full product cost, which they may have previously been unaware of, until their deductible is reached.”
Yes, copayments and deductibles have increased out-of-pocket costs for nearly everyone. Those in Bronze plans often have to put out $5,000 themselves before the plan starts covering their medical costs. Even those in expensive Platinum health care plans are paying more for brand name drugs with copayments reaching $50 to $100 for each. That means the insurance plan covers the remaining $500, which ultimately translates to everyone else helping to pay for the EpiPen maker’s strategy to stick it to users.
Mylan CEO Heather Bresch is quoted in a company release: “We recognize the significant burden on patients from continued, rising insurance premiums and being forced increasingly to pay the full list price for medicines at the pharmacy counter. Patients deserve increased price transparency and affordable care, particularly as the system shifts significant costs to them.”
The growing furor against Mylan on EpiPen and earlier toward Turing Pharmaceuticals for a 5,000 percent increase on Daraprim illustrate the crux of the conflict between affordable health care and making a profit. When there is competition, companies are not going to stick it to drug users with exorbitant increases. However, Turing and Mylan purchased drugs with little or no competition that are lifesavers for patients. So their price increases are comparable to putting a gun to patients’ heads. The criticism of Mylan is warranted with the EpiPen maker trying to stick it to users, but everyone else has a vested interest in a solution that limits increases or tremendous prices on drugs needed to stay alive.
Written and Edited by Dyanne Weiss
Wall Street Journal: Mylan Reacts to EpiPen Backlash
New York Times: Mylan to Offer Some Patients Aid on Cost of EpiPens
Web M.D.: The True Cost of EpiPen Coupons
Mylan: Mylan’s Commitment to EpiPen® (epinephrine injection, USP) Auto-Injector Access
Mylan: Mylan Taking Immediate Action to Further Enhance Access to EpiPen® (Epinephrine Injection, USP) Auto-Injector
Photo courtesy of Mylan