The price of the EpiPen 2-Pak, which is used to inject life-saving epinephrine into people having severe allergic reactions, has been steadily rising since it was acquired by Mylan in 2007—it was once $100 for a pair and now costs $600.
The opacity around drug prices makes it difficult to pinpoint if the company is completely at fault for the rise in price. Last Thursday, the company announced that it’d be giving some financial assistance with co-payments for the drug and expand the number of uninsured patients eligible for free treatment. Now the introduction of the generic drug seems like another attempt to quell people’s outrage.
It doesn’t really appear to be working, perhaps because the generic version is still $300. According to the New York Times, the brand “EpiPen” is so well known that doctors frequently prescribe it by name, rather than writing a script for a generic epinephrine auto-injector. Additionally, some pharmacists will not be able to stock anything except the EpiPen version, so Mylan’s revenue will still remain higher with a cheaper generic option than if they cut EpiPen’s cost over all.
The company says that for the $608 list price for EpiPen they make only $274. They also shift blame for the price onto other factors. Chief executive of Mylan, Heather Bresch, said in a statement, “Because of the complexity and opaqueness of today’s branded pharmaceutical supply chain and the increased shifting of costs to patients as a result of high-deductible health plans, we determined that bypassing the brand system in this case and offering an additional alternative was the best option.”
Other companies also produce some version of epinephrine, but the EpiPen’s injector delivery system is apparently the best and most accurate for dosage delivery, which can mean the difference between life and death for someone going into anaphylactic shock.