Mylan’s Epipen controversy swept under the rug after $465 million deal

The only treatment for food allergy reaction is epinephrine, or adrenaline. It shocks the body into a fight-or-flight response, causing your body to temporarily ignore the inflammatory signals. Epipen is the only commercially available epinephrine injector on the market. (Greg Friese/Flickr Creative Commons)

For anyone with a life threatening food allergy, the threat of eating contaminated food is all too real. An anaphylaxis reaction is an immune system overreaction where inflammatory signals are released by white blood cells, causing the esophagus, and trachea, to swell shut; preventing “harmful” allergens (and oxygen) from getting in. For anyone unlucky enough to have gone through a reaction like this, the experience is one they will never forget. The immediate panic when you start wheezing. The hives. The feeling of slowly being suffocated. The only treatment for this reaction is epinephrine, or adrenaline. It shocks the body into a fight-or-flight response, causing your body to temporarily ignore the inflammatory signals.

For anyone who grew up with this fear, the word ‘Epipen’ is one they have grown up with. Epipen is the only commercially available epinephrine injector on the market (since the failure of Auvi-Q a few years ago). We are taught to keep at least two Epipens on our person at all times. Make sure our friends and family all have one. Make sure there are extras in our houses, just in case. But these pen’s do not last forever. Most expire within one year and go bad quickly if exposed to temperatures outside of 68 to 77 degrees. Yet, at $300 a pen, the vast majority of Americans find it hard to afford more than one a year and most do not feel the yearly fee is worth the slim possibility they may encounter an allergen.

It was not always this way. In fact, in 2007 a two pack (the most common way Epipens are sold) cost only $100. As of 2016, this same pack costs $600. In that same time period, Heather Bresch, the CEO of the company that makes Epipens, Mylan, saw her salary rise from $2,453,456 in 2007 to $18,931,068 in 2015. For a medicine that costs around $1 to make and a plastic case that does not cost much more, it is hard to justify the price hike.

This is especially so with reports of improper classification. Mylan classified Epipen as a generic medication, meaning Medicaid and Medicare programs paid the company more than they should have because the medication is not actually generic. Because of this, the Department of Justice put out a lawsuit for Mylan and they settled at $465 million in a hope to “put the issue behind them".

This type of language seems to ignore the blatant immorality of the entire company. So what if $465 million gets paid to the government? What about the millions who have overpaid for years for medicine that most likely does not get used? What about the hundreds of others who have died because they could not afford the medicine and could not get to the hospital fast enough? With no plans put in force to lower the cost or other companies offering to make the drug cheaper, to end the monopoly, what is stopping Mylan from raising the price even more? After all, the government has turned a blind eye on the company for eight plus years leading up to this.

Speculation has arisen that this is due to fact that Mylan CEO’s father is Democratic Sen. from West Virginia Joe Manchin III. In fact, Bresch has donated $63,800 of her own money to politicians, including President Obama. Mylan itself has also donated over $250,000 to the controversial Clinton Foundation. Amid this tangled web of money, the fact that President Obama refused to condemn Mylan for price hiking, like he had done the last time something like this happened, is very troubling. In fact, the 2007-2016 price hike just happens to overlie Obama’s presidency.

Even though the DoJ has put this scandal behind them, the people most affected by this should not. Mine was to oysters, hidden in a secret recipe to a sauce used to cook chicken. I never saw it coming. A $2000 ambulance ride, a $3000 overnight stay in the hospital and four Epipens later, I was alive. How is Mylan repaying me?


David Csordas is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at david.csordas@uconn.edu.