The Unaffordable EpiPen

The EpiPen is a lifesaving medical device. A single injection contains a small amount of epinephrine, which narrows blood vessels and opens airways in the lungs. This can alleviate the symptoms of a possibly fatal allergic reaction and save lives in case of anaphylaxis. An EpiPen injection can also help to lessen the symptoms of a life-threatening asthma attack.

EpiPen Auto-Injectors. Photo Credit: Mylan

Last year, pharmaceutical manufacturer Mylan faced astronomical backlash for inflating the price of the EpiPen by almost 500 percent since 2007 (when Mylan acquired the device). The price of an EpiPen rose from roughly $57 in 2007 to $318 as of 2016. The injections that are essential lifesaving tools for many went from accessible necessities to luxury items.

Since the public didn't take well to their lives depending directly on their ability to afford a luxury-priced EpiPen, Mylan had to do something, so it started offering savings cards for the EpiPen and began producing a generic version that would cost $150 per injection. However, according to Science Alert reporter Fiona MacDonald, "Industry insiders were quick to criticize this apparent act of goodwill, with pharmaceutical experts telling NBC News...that they estimated an EpiPen would only cost around $30 to make."

As of today, however, those who need an EpiPen have another alternative. CVS, the largest pharmacy chain in America, has begun stocking its own generic EpiPen: the Adrenaclick. CVS will be offering this EpiPen generic alternative at a price of $109.99 for a pack of two.

The Path to a Generic

The path to developing a pharmaceutical is long and expensive. However, scientists are continually innovating in order to make essential medicines accessible for all. A family shouldn't have to choose between food and medicine, and many in the healthcare field are working to make sure that they don't have to.

A group named Four Thieves Vinegar has challenged the current generic manufacturing of EpiPens by manufacturing their own. They don't recommend that people try to make their own "DIY EpiPen," but by publicizing its creation, the group has proven that it is not technological or biological necessity that is keeping affordable epinephrine off of shelves; it is simply a matter of corporate greed. Their creation has shown pharmaceutical companies and consumers alike that it is no longer acceptable for life and health to be a luxury only the rich can afford.

Thankfully, the advancements that would allow for a cheaper EpiPen alternative to be produced exist. And, as CVS takes charge in dropping prices and making a generic option available, it will allow for competition that will, hopefully, drive down the price of an EpiPen pack eventually. CVS's EpiPen might also one day become available in single doses, increasing accessibility even more and ensuring that no one has to worry about being able to afford this lifesaving device.

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