BY CASSANDRA BAUER
Since early September, an EpiPen from GoodRx costs at least $614.07. This cost rose by 400 percent, while the CEO of Mylan, Heather Bresch, got a pay raise of 600 percent according to NBC News.
The EpiPen, according to its webpage, constricts blood vessels to increase blood pressure, relaxes muscles in the lungs to reduce wheezing and improves breathing while also stimulating the heart and working to reduce hives and swelling around the face and lips. These are all symptoms an individual may face when they come into contact with allergens such as peanuts or dairy products.
Michelle Bottenberg is an associate professor of pharmacy at Drake University and a Drake alumna. Her 9-year-old son was diagnosed with peanut and tree nut allergies. For most of her son’s life, he has been prescribed the use of EpiPens.
“I get two filled every year, and then the third I take from the previous year that I carry with me,” Bottenberg said. “I’m banking on that this is still going to be enough active ingredient in case we had to use it, but I don’t fill the (all) three, and I’m taking that risk.”
To some who experience the struggle of life-threatening allergies, the dramatic price increase has shown no just cause.
“It saddens me, because what are you doing that at the expense of?” Bottenberg said. “These are people’s lives, and these are people that in order to buy something like that, they don’t have insurance or a coupon card or anything like that. They will have to give up food or maybe eating or getting other necessities. It just saddens me, but this is the way our system is set up.”
Dave Harrison, the 69-year-old grandfather of sophomore Noah Daniels and former mailman, relies heavily on EpiPens in case of emergencies.
Harrison has allergies to poppy seeds, macadamia nuts, bananas, curry and strawberries as well as bee stings and presumably many other things he does not know about. He believes that the only reason Mylan raised their price was to feed their greed.
“To me, it’s apparent they don’t care about anybody but the upper class,” Harrison said. “They don’t care about the working class, and that’s the people who suffer the most.”
While Bottenberg’s son and Harrison both have never used their EpiPens, they are aware of what could happen if they do not have access to one.
Harrison recalls a time when he was at a dinner party with his wife and the hosts of the party served a cake with poppy seeds. Before Harrison could realize it, he had already eaten some of the cake and immediately had swollen lips and trouble breathing.
“It’s scary… that’s the whole thing with the EpiPen,” Harrison said. “You might never need it, but it’s comforting to have. But with the extreme rise of the price, a lot of people can’t afford it. I need to buy one right now but I won’t because of the price.”
Mylan plans to release a generic version of the EpiPen at half-price very soon. However, half-price is still more than triple what an EpiPen cost before the price increase.
However, according to the FDA, when one generic product begins competing with a name brand product, it on average only cuts the price by six percent.
People with life-threatening allergies will need to make the choice to continuing buying EpiPens, switching to the generic brand or taking a risk by going without.