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Monday, May 10, 2021

Rising EpiPen costs worry students, professionals

Recent price hikes of the EpiPen has Western’s health care professionals and students looking for a change regarding the issue of reduced access to life-saving products.

After a 75 percent increase in May 2015, the price hit $461. This last May, the price of the EpiPen reached $608.61 for a set of two, a cost some families can’t afford even with insurance.

Mylan Pharmaceuticals acquired the EpiPen in 2007 and has been steadily raising the price of the product ever since.

Gail Knops, a doctor at Western’s Student Health Center, said price increases like this are not unique.

“There’s been a big response to it, to this particular drug, and a lot of attention in that way, and that’s good,” Knops said.  “I’m hoping that will trigger more oversight, more response, as this is happening.”

A set of two EpiPens is the standard way consumers have been purchasing the product, and in 2009, pharmacies paid only $103.50 a set. In July 2013 that price rose to $264.50, according to data by the Elsevier Clinical Solutions’ drug database.

When stabbed into the thigh, the EpiPen dispenses epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, to reverse severe allergy symptoms such as swelling of the throat and tongue.

With a minimum 12 month expiration date, consumers usually purchase a new set every year.

“It definitely stops me from going out and buying a new one since my old one expired.”

Sean Hills

For some consumers, purchasing a new set of EpiPens annually just isn’t in the budget. But in the event of an emergency, allergic reactions to certain foods or bee stings can be fatal without the injection.

Sean Hills, a junior who is allergic to bee stings, said he feels it isn’t necessary to buy a new set of EpiPens because of the increased price.

“It definitely stops me from going out and buying a new one since my old one expired,” Hills said.

With the EpiPens increased cost, Hills said he’s glad it has gotten so much attention in the media.

“It’s a good thing for me, and other people who might be at a higher risk, to be able to buy one if they need one,” Hills said.

The effect of the price hike on consumers varies, depending on local pharmacy prices and different insurance plans.

Co-payments for the EpiPen are still four times higher, even with good insurance, according to a New York Times article on the issue.

Sophomore Patrick LeClair is a consumer of the EpiPen, and said he has been affected by an increase in co-payments within the last few years.

Although his insurance covers the majority of the cost for his EpiPens, LeClair is glad to see so much attention on the issue for consumers whose insurance doesn’t cover enough of the costs.

“I’m glad that it’s being brought up in the news and everything. It’s showing that the company has raised the prices. I think I saw by 500 percent or something like that, and the CEO has got a really big pay raise,” LeClair said.

Mylan Pharmaceuticals CEO, Heather Bresch, spoke on the issue at a hearing before the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform committee on Wednesday, Sept. 21.

According to an ABC News article by Alana Abramson, Bresch defended the company, saying “price and access exist in a balance, and we believe we have struck that balance.”

Bresch did not indicate whether the price hike would stop in 2017.

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