Blacksburg, VA – Pharmaceutical company Mylan has made news recently by raising the price of a popular and important drug. Mylan acquired a product by the name of EpiPen in 2007. At the time, the price of the product was approximately $100 per unit. However, the price quickly shot up to $600 after Mylan’s acquisition.
EpiPen is an injection containing epinephrine, a chemical that narrows blood vessels and opens airways in the lungs. These effects can reverse severe low blood pressure, wheezing, severe skin itching, hives, and other symptoms of an allergic reaction. This product is popular among people with life threatening allergies.
EpiPen currently has annual sales of about $1 billion. In response to the controversy, Mylan said that it would sell its own generic version of EpiPen for $300 — a concession not well received by those who depend on this life-saving technology.
According to a report in Forbes, the government’s outrage over the price of EpiPen is hypocritical as it was a direct result of the government’s policy that caused the price spike:
Epinephrine (Epi) is a naturally occurring hormone our bodies use for Fight or Flight. Epi makes our hearts pump harder, it heightens the senses, strengthens our muscles, and opens up the airways. In patients with sudden constriction of the airways, such as in asthma or respiratory allergies with anaphylaxis, Epi can be lifesaving.
Meridian Medical Technologies introduced the first autoinjectors of Epi for sale to the public in 1997. Mylan Pharmaceuticals became the sole seller and marketer in 2007. After multiple denials by the FDA of competing Epi devices and President Obama’s 2013 legislation forcing public schools to purchase EpiPens, Mylan gained market share to reach its present level of 90 percent.
Why can Mylan get away with a 500% price increase? Because it has a monopoly, one that is maintained by “the federal government’s own regulatory scheme” which allowed, in fact encouraged, “a billion-dollar market [to be] cornered by one supplier.” Government officials decry Mylan’s behavior to distract the public from government complicity.
Sanofi , Teva, and Adamis are three pharmaceutical companies that would like to compete with Mylan; however, they cannot sell Epi because they do not have the FDA’s okay. The feds keep changing their administrative rules and regulations. In fact, “the FDA maintains no clear and consistent principles for generic drug-delivery devices like auto injectors or asthma inhalers.”
Thanks to Patent No. 7,449,012, no one could compete against Mylan in the realm of EpiPen. And, thanks to loopholes in patent laws, companies like Mylan can make a tiny and insignificant change to their product to restore patent protection and once again rely on the state to legitimize their monopoly. However, the active ingredient is in EpiPen is no longer afforded a government monopoly through a patent, and can, therefore, be reproduced as a generic.
Because of this lack of support from the state to make its competition illegal, someone has been able to step up and provide an alternative.
Jeremy Counts, owner of Main Street Pharmacy in Blacksburg, Virginia, is buying the medicine in bulk, and making his own EpiPens, which he is selling for just $20!
“I mean, it was ridiculous. I was having people come in and they were, well, what am I going to do?” Counts said.
“I buy the epinephrine in bulk and I get a good price and then I take the syringes and I pre-load them with 2 doses for people, and after I pre-load them, they’re ready to go,” he explained.
“There is absolutely zero difference as far as the actual medication being delivered. The only difference is they’ve got a fancy pen with a spring in it,” he added.
Counts also said that he is providing this service basically at cost, and is hardly making a profit on the deal.
The only major difference between Count’s pens and the official EpiPens is that his product lasts about three months in storage while the official product lasts a year.
This situation is somewhat reminiscent of a drug called Daraprim, which saw its price rise from $13.50 to $750 per pill after it was purchased by Turing Pharmaceuticals. Initially, the decision sparked outrage, but in just weeks the San Diego-based Imprimis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. announced that it would be offering an alternative for roughly $1 per pill, or $99 for a 100-pill supply.
You can find more information about Main Street Pharmacy here.