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epipen

Price of EpiPens skyrockets, prompts questions in U.S.

U.S. politicians, including presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and members of Congress, are demanding more information on why the price for lifesaving EpiPens has skyrocketed.

EpiPens are injection devices used to ward off potentially fatal allergic reactions, and the price has surged in recent years.

A two-dose package cost around $94 nine years ago.

The average cost was more than six times that in May, according to the Elsevier Clinical Solutions' Gold Standard Drug Database.

U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote Mylan, the company that manufactures the devices, and asked for more information on why the prices have increased.

He cited the cost to parents whose children need them and also to schools that keep the EpiPens on hand. He noted the costs can also be passed on to taxpayers when children are covered by Medicaid or other government programs.

Two other senators, Democrats Mark Warner of Virginia and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, also wrote the company about the high prices. Warner said in a letter this week that the issue is personal for him.

"As the parent of a child with severe allergies, I am all too familiar with the life-or-death importance of these devices," Warner wrote.

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., asked the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to hold a hearing on the issue. She is a co-chair of the Congressional Kids Safety Caucus.

"Thousands of Americans rely on EpiPens in a given year, and perhaps no time is more important in the purchasing of these devices than the beginning of a new school year," Meng wrote in a letter to committee chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and top Democrat Elijah Cummings of Maryland.

Meanwhile, Clinton is raising questions and concerns as she campaigns for the White House.

Clinton, in a statement issued on Aug. 24, said, "Mylan Pharmaceuticals has increased the price of EpiPens by more than 400 percent.  They're now charging up to $600 for a two-EpiPen set that must be replaced every 12-18 months. This both increases out-of-pocket costs for families and first responders, and contributes to higher premiums for all Americans and their employers.

That's outrageous — and it's just the latest troubling example of a company taking advantage of its consumers. I believe that our pharmaceutical and biotech industries can be an incredible source of American innovation, giving us revolutionary treatments for debilitating diseases.  But it's wrong when drug companies put profits ahead of patients, raising prices without justifying the value behind them."

A two-dose package sold for an average $608 in May, according to the Elsevier database, and has possibly risen since then.

In a statement issued earlier this week, Mylan said it has savings programs for patients and is also offering free EpiPens to schools. The company said around half of U.S. schools are participating in that program.

Recent changes in health insurance have resulted in higher deductible costs for many families, the company said. "This current and ongoing shift has presented new challenges for consumers, and now they are bearing more of the cost" of the devices, the statement said.

Clinton has released a detailed plan for dealing with exorbitant drug price hikes. She's said pharmaceutical manufacturers should be required to explain significant price increases and prove that any additional costs are linked to additional patient benefits and better value.

"Since there is no apparent justification in this case, I am calling on Mylan to immediately reduce the price of EpiPens," Clinton said.

Clinton said her plan also encourages the production of alternative products to "keep drug prices at a level that all Americans can afford.

From WiG and AP reports

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