Of Price and Pen

Pricing of a lifesaving allergy treatment raises concerns.

I was catching up with some friends over the weekend, and at some point, our conversation drifted to the EpiPen outrage, which appears to be making headlines on a daily basis in the United States. The manufacturer Mylan is currently under fire for hiking the price of its lifesaving allergy treatment from less than $100 to more than $600, a 460% increase since 2007. 

Mylan’s response to the situation did not go down very well, unfortunately. Its efforts to alleviate the cost burden by offering discounts and even promising to launch a generic version of EpiPen at half the price only seem to spark further criticisms. Once again, the general public can’t help but question pharma’s priorities. Between their investors and the patient, who comes first? And why does it always look as though drugmakers are more interested in making money than saving lives? 

Of course, the only reason Mylan could get away with this epic price hike was because of the lack of competition. Mylan was handed virtual monopoly of EpiPen after its rival, Sanofi, recalled Auvi-Q over dosage delivery problems in October 2015. Another competitor, Teva Pharmaceuticals, failed to obtain regulatory approval for its generic epinephrine autoinjector, with the US Food and Drug Administration citing major deficiencies as grounds for its rejection.

Epinephrine is well past its patent protection, hence, the drug itself is cheap. Mylan’s secret weapon lies in the EpiPen drug-delivery system. The one-cap device, which provides a convenient means of delivering a precise dose of epinephrine, is protected by patent until 2025. CEO of Mylan, Heather Bresch, is now seen as the villain who enjoyed a salary jump of 671% as a result of the unjustified price increase of EpiPen while the inventor of the autoinjector hardly gets any mention in the press. So my friends and I decided we should raise our glass to toast the late Sheldon Kaplan, who designed EpiPen and probably didn’t get a single royalty from its sales. Where would Mylan be without his innovation, which has saved the lives of many? 

Article Details

Pharmaceutical Technology Europe
Vol. 28, No. 9
Page: 6

Citation

When referring to this article, please cite it as A. Siew, “Of Price and Pen,” Pharmaceutical Technology Europe 28 (9) 2016.