Skyrocketing EpiPen prices put strain on families

Families strained by rising cost of Epipens

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- EpiPens can mean the difference between life and death for children with severe allergies,  but the price has increased 400 percent during the past seven years. In 2009, the drug cost around $100 for a set. Now, it’s hovering around $600.

Experts said that jump all comes down to a lack of competition in the market.

“When competition is taken out of the market, then companies are just naturally incentivized to make decisions that help themselves but ultimately are really damaging to consumers,” University of Louisville Marketing Professor Davis-Sramek said.  “Anytime big business and big government get together and get a little too cozy, it’s a pretty classic case of cronyism, and the end result is that competition is stifled.”

Several years ago, bipartisan legislation passed that encouraged schools to get EpiPens, but it only approved the Mylan brand.

“As well intentioned as this was to make kids safer, the unintended consequence is that when one company has their product in virtually every school in the country, competition is going to be hammered,” Davis-Sramek said

Davis-Sramek said the two other competitors with Mylan that were working on EpiPen-like devices were essentially removed from the market by the FDA. One was recalled. The other was blocked. She also said it takes the FDA about 48 months to approve a drug right now, making it incredibly difficult for other companies to get anything approved.

“What they need to do is figure out why it takes 48 months for the FDA to approve a drug. That would be my question,” Davis-Sramek said.

Thursday, Mylan announced that it is offering different discounts for families depending on their insurance situation. Still, it won’t cut down the cost that significantly for many, including the Morris family. Their twin girls, Madison and Reese, are six-years-old.  Their mom, Michelle, first noticed a reaction when their big brother, Brady, was eating Nutella around them several years ago. The girls showed the classic symptoms with hives and runny noses.

“It just was enough that we ended up calling 911, and they had their first ride in the ambulance together,” Michelle Morris said.

Doctors quickly diagnosed them with a number of food allergies. They never leave home without an EpiPen, but it's now coming at an unimaginable cost. The twins have eight sets, or 16 EpiPens between the two of them.

“We have them in the classroom, in the office, with me at all times, and at home,” Michelle Morris said.

Luckily, the twins have never had to use their EpiPens, but Morris said they have to have them handy at all times just in case. Morris said they're lucky to have good insurance, but they still ended up paying about $4,400 for their EpiPen sets this year, even dipping into their savings for this life-saving drug.

“Our girls touch it, they rub their eyes, they do anything, and that could send them into anaphylactic shock,” Morris said. “It happens so fast, so the EpiPens need to be readily available. It’s a matter of life and death.”

Morris said the dramatic rise in the cost of the EpiPens is a financial burden for her family, but she said it’s far worse for many other families out there who need the drug just as much.

“Food allergies are on the rise, and the fact that they’re doing this and taking advantage of all of these people is really disheartening,” Morris said.  “It’s food on the table for them, and they have to decide what they’re going to do, you know spend the money on this medication that yes, they may never need it but to not have it. I mean, that’s terrifying for them. No parent should have to make that decision.”


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