In a case of the truth being stranger than fiction, embattled EpiPen manufacturer Mylan has released a generic version of its own product and cut the cost by 50%.
EpiPens have been at the center of a media firestorm as consumer outrage and social media campaigns have fueled a backlash against the device’s manufacturer amid accusations of price gouging. Since acquiring the license to manufacture EpiPens in 2007, Mylan has increased the price of the lifesaving allergy remedy by some 500 times. A two-pack of EpiPens now costs a patient $600; the latest price increase having come just before this year’s back to school shopping season.
EpiPens are carried by those who suffer from severe allergic reactions. To most, a bee sting is a minor irritant. To those whose lives can be ended by anaphylactic shock from a bee sting, however, a lifesaving injection of epinephrine can be the only thing that keeps the patient alive until they can seek medical attention. This same scenario can play out with a whole list of possible allergens including various foods, fibers, and nuts.
The company’s moves have done little to calm consumers, and recent Mylan actions have only served to bolster the idea that the company is tone deaf to the needs of the patients who depend on EpiPens for their very survival.
The first was to offer financial assistance to certain groups of patients who might have had problems paying the $600 price tag. The financial assistance offer may have sounded good at first, until the public learned that the price of the EpiPen was staying the same. Noting its failure to quash protest, the company has recently taken the unusual step of releasing a generic version of its own product. Mylan states that their generic EpiPen is identical to the branded EpiPen and will cost $300; half the cost of an EpiPen prescription. Critics note that this price is still three times the 2007 cost of a device known to cost far, far less than that to manufacture.
Mylan’s EpiPen pricing has recently caught the attention of the United States Congress. The legislative body has asked the company for a formal response to a series of questions, including how many of its customers are on federal assistance plans. The line of questions makes it all but certain that at least one senator is wondering if Medicare may be funding record profits and executive bonuses at Mylan.
Mylan CEO Heather Bresch made $18.9 million last year. Her father is West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin.