Epi-Pen: One Dollar of Medicine, $299 of Greed

If you or a family member own an Epi-Pen, you know its not a luxury. It’s a life saver, whether for severe allergic responses or asthma. Much of the value is that the gadget is “stupid-proof.” Even a person panicking as their throat closes up can just jab it onto a thigh and hold it there. It works automatically, even through jeans.

Epinephrine is THE lifesaving drug. No crash cart is without it. An ampule (a glass vial) goes for $3. I checked today at my hospital pharmacy. One ampule has three adult doses. Three bucks for three doses.  A dollar a dose. Fifty cents for a child-sized dose. Pocket change.

Mylan jacked up the price to $600 for a single dose auto-injector. That’s one dollar for the med, $599 for greed. When the hue and cry went up, they released a “generic” one for $300.

Epinephrine is an old drug whose patent expired in a galaxy long ago and far away.  The Epi-Pen has been around since Elvis was alive. It was invented in 1971. It’s been tweaked a few times. So why haven’t there been cheap generics since the 1980’s?

Well, click here for the whole stupid story. It’s about mergers, acquisitions and lawsuits. Basically if Godzilla Pharmaceuticals and DrugsRUs both make and sell cheaper epinephrine auto injectors, Greed Pharmaceuticals will buy them up. Greed then has a monopoly and gets to set the price.

In addition, all the legal costs involved with the companies suing, buying and selling each other jacks up the price … without adding any value to the medication.

Right now, when healthcare makes little sense (except perhaps to the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland), people are putting (fictional, astronomical) prices on drugs. Why?

The surge of ten million people onto health insurance means a year of high demand. People are taking care of their laundry list of medical problems.  Just look at the money to be made off them NOW. Especially if you jacked up prices into the stratosphere. No federal agency controls drug prices. And the law says Medicare cannot negotiate for drug prices.  Medicaid can.

Epi-Pens require yearly replacement.  At $300 a pop, that’s absurd. The max cost could easily be $20. Remember, the active drug costs a dollar. We’re paying $299 for the gadget, legal wrangling and greed.

Mylan CEO Heather Bresch’s $26 million paycheck could provide for 87,000 “generic” Epi-Pens.

I’ll bet you dollars to donuts, we could have a national teen science fair to design a new auto-injector that would retail for $10 — and remain in the public domain.

It’s okay to make a decent living by relieving human suffering.

It’s a sin to feed your greed off of it.