EpiPen price hike raises concern, fear for patients

Sasha Vassilyeva, co-opinions editor

In the last couple of years, pharmaceutical companies have been rapidly increasing drug prices and a few weeks ago, Mylan, a pharmaceutical company, skyrocketed prices of the EpiPen to a whopping $600.

For those that don’t know, EpiPens are injections that contain a drug called epinephrine, which is used to treat anaphylaxis, a severe and life-threatening allergic reaction. From 2007 to just a few months ago the price of the EpiPen went from $100 to $600, according to the New York Times.

Within the last few weeks, Mylan has caused an uproar of outrage from the public, myself included. When I first heard about the price increase, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. $600 for TWO injections? Are you kidding?

The first question that came into my mind was how people were going to afford this? EpiPens are carried by nearly 3.6 million Americans, and I highly doubt that all of them have an extra $600 dollars to spare. If a patient’s insurance doesn’t cover it, that’s $600 out of their pocket that they may not even have.

I hate to think that just because some CEO wanted to boost her own compensation (believe me, I’ve seen the numbers, and that’s one hell of a paycheck), not all patients will be able to receive the medication they need without putting a big dent in their wallet. And how does one survive anaphylactic shock if they can’t afford to get an EpiPen? Well, to put it simply, they don’t.

Suppose a person does dig up that $600 (even if it takes all the change from under the couch cushions), will they hesitate to use it because of the price? I’d like to hope not, but for some, $600 is a lot of money that they can’t simply throw around.

My fear is that the new, unaffordable price of this drug will make people think twice before using it. You can’t reuse an EpiPen. It’s one and done, and once it’s used there’s no getting it back. The next one you get is yet another $600 out of pocket.

I have a few friends with severe allergies who have to carry an EpiPen, and if (God forbid) anything should ever happen to them, I wouldn’t want there to be anything that might make them stop and think before using their EpiPen. I see no way to justify this price hike if it could make people hesitant to save their life or not have the resource to save their life at all.

The CEO of Mylan has said that this price hike was necessary for making EpiPens available to schools and for investment in things like public awareness campaigns and production/distribution of the drug. I (kind of) understand  where they are coming from. Mylan has even said that they will help some patients by lowering the price of their co-payments and out-of-pocket costs for the EpiPen (which, as far as I know, takes the price down to $300 with a handy-dandy coupon that some patients receive).
But rather than assisting a select few individuals, why not reduce the overall cost? And how would those lucky few be chosen? Epinephrine has to be accessible to everyone that needs it, and I don’t think there should be any reason to have to deny someone a medicine that will save their life. I just can’t seem to wrap my head around how the thirst for a bigger paycheck could be worth human lives.