I remember when I was five years old and had my first severe asthma attack. I remember the intense gasping for air as my mother tried to calm me down while they helped me to the car because we didn’t have an inhaler.
During the past few weeks, a judge, jury and executioner compiled of media
correspondents and politicians have shunned Mylan NV, a global generic and specialty pharmaceuticals company headquartered in Canonsburg, Pa., and its CEO Heather Bresch for their greedy actions to raise the relatively inexpensive, lifesaving EpiPen to unfathomable prices.
Their critiques are welcome but are too narrow. If we as a nation want to stem the tide of ever increasing drug prices, our leaders must do more than public shaming and scapegoating. The actions of Mylan and Bresch is a byproduct of the broken system in which the federal government has created.
Mylan acquired the rights to the EpiPen in 2007 and quickly patented the product in effect, getting rid of most of the competition. Less competitors meant higher prices and Mylan began a slow uptick in their prices. Accompanied with a campaign to get schools to stock EpiPens as a strategy to save children’s lives.
They continued to whittle the field further by working with Congress, diverting $2 million in 2015 alone to lobby for tougher FDA regulations and slowly, one by one, competitors began to fall. For instance, on Feb. 29 of this year, the FDA had denied Israeli generics company Teva Pharmaceuticals’ generic version of the EpiPen. Now, cheaper alternatives have come out from the market but the war had already been won by Mylan.
Due to stringent FDA laws, doctors were only able to prescribe EpiPens to patients. This further choked the market and left EpiPen atop the food chain. Once the only remaining major drug company AviuQ pulled out of the EpiPen market in late 2015, Mylan had sole control of their pricing and could do whatever they felt was in the best interest of their company.
Boom, just like that, a two-pack of an EpiPen cost $600.
By overemphasizing safety over productivity, our politicians have counterproductively put the lives of millions of middle class and poor Americans at risk. It is time for the federal government to step up to the plate and attack the head on the monster they created.
Many companies just like Mylan have seized the opportunity to patent their product design regardless of how generic they are. One case, for example, is the rapid inflation of the cost of inhalers for people with asthma and bronchitis. Basic inhalers that once used to cost $15 now cost $50 to $100 in the United States.
According to the Elsevier Clinical Solutions’ Gold Standard Drug Database, the price for one EpiPen in 2005 was $50 and the majority of the cost wasn’t based on the actual medication. A dose of epinephrine alone costs less than a dollar from an online medical supplies company, and a single syringe costs as little as 13 cents.