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The Epipen Debacle: Patients Against Big Pharma

The Epipen Debacle: Patients Against Big Pharma

If you’ve been following healthcare news, you may have noticed the recent spike (and uproarious backlash) in EpiPen, a lifesaver for those who suffer from life-threatening anaphylactic shock.

Some people are so allergic to things like peanuts that they develop anaphylaxis, when the airways for breathing swell and close.  Possible allergies include but are not limited to peanuts, tree nuts (such as walnuts and pecans), shellfish, fish, cow’s milk, eggs, wheat and soy. Many affected are children, who rely on EpiPens in case of emergency. Between 1 and 2 percent of people have this condition, but there’s a simple hormonal treatment to counteract this allergic shock; Epinephrine ( or adrenaline). It’s a hormone naturally produced by the adrenal glands. In addition to making your heart beat faster, pupils to dilate, and blood vessels to constrict, it opens your airways. When it stimulates the heart it works to reduce hives and swelling that may occur around the face and lips thus saving peoples’ lives everyday.

In September 2016,  CEO Heather Bresch testified before a congressional committee last week saying Mylan’s profit was $100 for a two-pack of the injectors, despite a $608 list price. Since acquiring the rights to EpiPen in 2007, they have increasec prices 550%. Pens now sell for $608. What this means is people can’t get their medication. The situation is so dire that people on Youtube are showing ways to DIY the medication at home. This alternative “EpiPencil,” is the brainchild of Michael Laufer of DIY medicine collective Four Thieves Vinegar. It consists of an auto-injector (usually used by diabetics), a syringe (available isn ten-packs), a 22-gauge hypodermic needle, and the epinephrine (a prescription still necessary, but its generally inexpensive).

Nobody can force Mylan to lower its prices. But what consumers are doing with their angry articles and clever alternatives are showing that it is possible to provide affordable healthcare to those who need it. Their profit margin was an entire 60% higher than what they originally told Congress. Remember, this product saves lives. While the health care industry is a playing field for high profit margins in research and product, when it comes to life-saving drugs, significant increases in price like Mylan’s abuse of EpiPen prices translate as profiteering off a person’s life or death need.


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