COMMENTARY: The cost of the EpiPen price increase
By U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota
There's a cost that comes with the 450 percent increase in the price of EpiPens.
Parents worry that they won't be able to afford their child's medication. They drive to pharmacies miles away from their homes just to get the best deal on EpiPens. School nurses watch as families weigh the risk of sending their child to school without this life-saving medication because they cannot afford it.
I heard from one family whose child's allergy is so severe that it takes two EpiPens to treat an allergic reaction. That means the family has to pay for two EpiPens for school, two more to have at home, and an additional two for the grandparents' home. Sure, it's expensive. But they do it because the alternative is terrifying. I experienced that firsthand.
My daughter, Abigail, is one of millions of Americans who suffer from a life-threatening allergy. I'll never forget the scary day we discovered Abigail's nut allergy. She had eaten a cashew and suddenly started to swell up. We were worried her throat would close as we rushed her to the emergency room. She now carries an EpiPen with her everywhere.
The EpiPen saves lives and provides peace of mind for patients and parents. However, an alarming and unjustified rise in the price of this medication has put lifesaving treatment out of reach for many of the consumers who need it most.
In 2009, two EpiPens cost $100. Now, Mylan Pharmaceuticals is charging as much as $600. And as anyone who relies on an EpiPen knows, that $600 isn't a one-time expense. EpiPens must be replaced every year whether they are used or not, because the medication in the device expires.
So what caused this dramatic price increase? Here's one possible answer: It's happened at the same time that Mylan has gained more market power.
Last fall, a competing drug was recalled from the market, and a generic version failed to receive approval this spring. That leaves people with severe allergies with no practical choice but the EpiPen. That's why, as ranking member of the Antitrust Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I have called on the committee and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate these outrageous price increases.
Days after I called for these investigations, Mylan announced it would expand its EpiPen patient assistance programs. While this action by Mylan is welcome relief to many who are struggling to afford this lifesaving medication, it won't fully address the root of the problem.
The burden of the EpiPen price increases and other prescription drug increases — including vital medications like insulin and Naxolone — persists for American families, taxpayers, and employers. We cannot rely on public outcry as the only solution to high prescription drug prices. And I've introduced multiple pieces of legislation that would help protect American consumers from the rising prices of prescription drugs.
EpiPen packs cost hundreds of dollars less in Canada, Sen. John McCain and I have introduced legislation that would help Minnesota families save money. The Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act would require the Food and Drug Administration to establish a personal importation program that would allow people to import a 90-day supply of prescription drugs from an approved Canadian pharmacy.
Other bills I've introduced would change current laws that give pharmaceutical the upper hand in bargaining prices for prescription medication, expand access to cost-saving generic drugs, and deter pharmaceutical companies from blocking cheaper generic alternatives from entering the marketplace.
It's this simple: If you have a life-threatening illness then you should have access to affordable lifesaving medicine. But with the price of EpiPens on the rise, that's not the case for many who suffer from severe allergies. The cost for families is too high. That's why I'm going to keep fighting to bring the price of prescription drugs down.