My morning dose of rage came courtesy of Gizmodo and their reporting on the high cost of the EpiPen, the emergency epinephrine injector used to treat anaphylaxis. We all have that friend who will die if they get stung by a bee (apologies if you are that friend), or the one who needs to go to the hospital if they so much as look at a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Yeah, that is what EpiPens help to treat while you rush to the emergency room.
Back in 2007, an EpiPen cost $57. Today, you can get a two pack (no more single sticks for you) for $600. This amazing price increase was brought to you by the drug company, Mylan. They have been pushing up the price of the drug while making efforts to make sure it is everywhere. They worked with congress to help pass the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, resulting in EpiPens in most schools. Disneyworld is stocking them now too. Sarah Jessica Parker took part in an ad campaign–that seems to have been casually disguised as a public service campaign–to talk about her own child’s experience with anaphylaxis.
Thankfully, after all of the articles that came out yesterday and today, there has been a swift backlash. Congress is calling for a price drop and FTC investigation (“Wait, is this partially our fault?”). Hillary Clinton asked Mylan to voluntarily lower the price of the drug. Even king pharma scumbag, Martin Shkreli, called Mylan “vultures.” Oh, and their stock took a 5.41% dive.
How does this sort of thing happen? Lots of reasons. But, the one that stood out for me is the availability heuristic. When making judgements about something–say the likelihood that your child is at risk for anaphylaxis–people rely on the most available information on the subject. They see Sarah Jessica Parker talking about her kid. They hear a story about a little girl who dies after eating a peanut. They remember a friend who went to the hospital with a bee sting. It must happen all the time. We need a law to make sure our kids are safe in school. I need a few pens too, because I think my kid is at risk.
I am not criticizing people who make decisions based on the availability heuristic. It is a natural process of thinking. I am sure that I employ it all the time. But, when pharmaceutical companies take advantage of it, we should feel scammed and get mad.
From Bloomberg’s article:
The biggest threat to EpiPen could come from Teva Pharmaceutical Industries. It settled a patent lawsuit in 2012 allowing it to market a generic version of EpiPen as early as this year, if it wins FDA approval. Mylan isn’t too worried. Predicted Bresch in August: “You would not see the traditional market loss because of just the brand equity with EpiPen.”
Eek. I think you just lost some “brand equity” Mylan. I look forward to their press release by the end of the week.