EpiPen debate and out-of-control drug prices
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It’s official. Mylan has gone too far. When the drug company raised the price of the EpiPen by 400 percent and boosted the CEO’s salary to $18 million, it definitely went beyond what the public will accept. In less than 10 years, the price for a two-pack of EpiPen Auto Injectors for life-threatening allergy relief has risen from approximately $100 to over $600. Some analysts have estimated that the tiny amount of epinephrine in an EpiPen is worth barely $1, and the auto injectors might cost as little as $5.

So now, out of reaction to public outrage, Mylan has bowed to public pressure. First they decided to keep the price at $600, but provide coupons that cut the cost in half. Still a hefty price to pay for a bee sting or a food allergy that could cost a person his or her life. Canada’s generic version of this drug is approximately $200 and France offers it at around $150. Then they decided to offer a generic version of the twin-pack for $300.

Many drugs are becoming so astronomically expensive that it raises moral implications, and now the public and some doctors are successfully revolting.

The company’s plan to profit by legislative mandates — federal block grants to states that mandate that schools stock their EpiPen, and through third-party payments from insurers - ran headlong into the public’s anger when third-party payment for EpiPens disappeared under government health care-induced high deductibles. 

Mylan’s claim that they “understand the deep frustration and concerns associated with the cost of EpiPen to the patient, and have always shared the public's desire to ensure that this important product be accessible to anyone who needs it,” is clearly not backed up by the price point the company has set. Children and adults who have severe allergies risk dying because this pharmaceutical company’s greed got the best of them.

Some say the price reduction is simply a desperate attempt to save Mylan’s reputation and avert criticism and side-step a potential severing of any association with the company, as it sponsors a number of events with worldwide exposure for the drug giant. Others say that this “goodwill” announcement could keep the competition at bay. But the generic version doesn’t please all. Former presidential candidate Bernie SandersBernie SandersManchin meets with Sanders, Jayapal amid spending stalemate America can end poverty among its elderly citizens Senate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair MORE said, “We need real competition to lower drug prices, not corporations offering generic versions of their own drugs for whatever price they want.”

Issuing coupon cards is a common solution for pharmaceutical companies, yet this leaves employers and taxpayers on the hook for high costs and rising insurance premiums.

Mylan CEO Heather Bresch attempts to shift the blame for the increased cost of the product onto insurance companies. She says that people on medications have high-deductible health plans and high copayments now, so they are suffering higher prices more than ever. True, but that’s no excuse for raising the price of a decades-old medication until it became unaffordable to those who need it.

The real lesson here is that third-party payment allows prices to go higher than the public would willingly pay. To keep health care prices at the pocketbook level, third-party payment must be limited to catastrophic coverage aimed solely at protecting against major financial losses. That’s how every other insurance policy works, and that’s what keeps services and insurance much more affordable. 

Yes, Mylan is facing the wrath of public anger; this is what happens when people begin to pay cash for care. They feel the cost and care deeply about prices. Because lives depend on it.

Twila Brase is president and co-founder of Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom, a patient-centered national health freedom organization. CCHF has branded The Wedge of Health Freedom

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.