Skyrocketing EpiPen Price Puts Allergy Sufferers at Risk

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David Smart /

If you or someone you know has severe allergies, you’re probably familiar with an EpiPen — a medical device that can stop a potentially deadly reaction to a bee sting or a food allergy.

The device, which NBC says cost about $100 in 2008, has shot up more than 400 percent in price and now starts at $500 and up — a price some allergy sufferers simply cannot afford.

Dr. David Naimi, a specialist at Seattle’s Northwest Asthma & Allergy Center, told KIRO that the jaw-droppingly high price of the EpiPens has been a significant issue for many of his patients. Naimi says not having affordable access to an EpiPen can have deadly consequences.

“Epinephrine is the cornerstone of treatment for a severe allergic reaction. And without it, if you’re having a bad allergic reaction, it could lead to death.”

Drugmaker Mylan bought EpiPen in 2007, when the allergy devices wholesaled for about $57 each and brought in about $200 million annually in sales, according to Bloomberg. Today, EpiPens start at about $500, and the device’s revenue exceeds $1 billion.

Its success is the result of “aggressive marketing and branding campaigns, and lobbying for legislation that requires the product to be stocked in schools,” says NBC, adding that Mylan’s EpiPen now has “a brand dominance equal to that of Kleenex.”

Mylan has also enjoyed a near monopoly on the device since its main competitor launched a recall last fall.

The allergy device contains about $1 worth of epinephrine, a hormone that can stop anaphylactic shock from a potentially fatal allergic reaction. EpiPens expire after a year, so users have to fill them annually.

NBC says Mylan issued a statement saying the EpiPen prices have “changed over time to better reflect important product features and the value the product provides,” and that “we’ve made a significant investment to support the device over the past years.”

Drug pricing tracker DRX told Bloomberg that the EpiPen’s price hike is among the biggest of any top-selling brand-name drug.

What do you think of soaring prescription drug prices in the U.S.? Share your thoughts and personal experiences with drug price hikes below or on our Facebook page.

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