Wednesday, August 6, 2014

EpiPen Price Gouging, Part Two

My outrage about the cost of EpiPens continues. According to an In These Times story, republished on

EpiPens used to be cheap — just $35.59 wholesale in 1986. [A pharmacist in Vermont, mentioned in the article] now pays $333 for a two-pack...

What makes life-and-death EpiPens a poster child for Big Pharma greed is that the industry’s usual excuses for exorbitant pricing don’t apply. R&D costs? The delivery system was developed on the taxpayers’ dime by military/NASA engineer Sheldon Kaplan (who never got a penny in royalties) to inject atropine to counter battlefield nerve gas. Minor modifications suited it to epinephrine. Educational/marketing costs? Every doctor already knows about EpiPens. A limited customer base? With allergies on the rise and millions of EpiPens sold globally, economy of scale is built in, and a repeat market is guaranteed by quick expiration and dire need. EpiPen earned Mylan a tidy $640 million in 2012, The New York Times reported.
In the ITT story, the author visits a pharmacy in Quebec, just across the Vermont border, where this transpires:
“I’d like to buy an EpiPen,” I told the pharmacist. “Have you a prescription, madam?” M. Milot asked. “But I was told it was over-the-counter.” “Yes, but without [an insurance-backed] prescription, it will be so extremely expensive: US $94.”
Ninety-four dollars. For the same exact object that costs $333 or more in the U.S.

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