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Here’s how EpiPen’s makers are explaining their skyrocketing prices

Click to play video: 'Cost of Epipen skyrockets in the U.S., causing outrage for patients' Cost of Epipen skyrockets in the U.S., causing outrage for patients
The price of a life-saving medication for people with severe allergies has soared by 500 per cent in the United States, even as the cost remains unchanged in Canada. As Jackson Proskow reports, that’s prompting outrage and leading to questions about why drug prices are so different between the two countries – Aug 24, 2016

They’re injected as emergency medicine for severe allergies to food and bug bites, but in the past few months, the price of the EpiPen has soared to more than $600 in the U.S. for two syringes. That’s a 400 per cent price hike, according to some U.S. reports.

Now, Mylan N.V. – the makers of the EpiPen – has responded to outrage from the public and health officials. It says it’s doling out a “savings card” that’ll cover up to $300 for the injectors.

“We have been a long-term, committed partner to the allergy community and are taking immediate action to help ensure that everyone who needs an EpiPen Auto-Injector gets one,” the company’s CEO, Heather Bresch, said in a statement.

READ MORE: How EpiPen’s maker raised prices in the U.S.

She said Mylan understands the “significant burden” on patients from rising insurance premiums and having to pay the full list price for certain medications.

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“However, price is only one part of the problem that we are addressing with today’s actions. All involved must also take steps to help meaningfully address the U.S. healthcare crisis, and we are committed to do our part to drive change,” Bresch said.

(Bresch is under fire for taking a $19 million salary, along with perks, in 2015 as EpiPen listing prices kept creeping up.)

How Mylan is trying to help

Mylan listed four ways it’s trying to help consumers:

  • For patients who face higher out-of-pocket costs, Mylan is handing out the $300 savings card. That’s supposed to cut 50 per cent of the cost for those who would’ve had to pay full price.
  • It’s doubling eligibility for its patient assistance program to 400 per cent of the federal poverty level in the U.S. This means a family with a household income  of $97,200 would pay nothing out of pocket, it says.
  • Mylan is continuing its EpiPen4Schools program that was launched in 2012. It doles out 700,000 free injectors to more than 65,000 schools across the U.S.
  • Consumers can also buy EpiPen injectors directly from the company through a “pathway” the company is opening that’ll reduce the costs.

How quickly have EpiPen prices shot up?

In 2007, when Mylan took over rights to EpiPen, a pair of syringes cost $93.88. By 2008, the price jumped by five per cent, and by 2009, it jumped by 20 per cent. In mid-May, the price was a whopping $609.

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READ MORE: Did dated recommendations contribute to spike of food allergies in kids?

Mylan has a virtual monopoly on epinephrine injectors, which are the potentially life-saving devices used to stop a runaway allergic reaction.

Roughly 40 million Americans have severe allergies to spider bites, bee stings, and foods like nuts, eggs and shellfish. This puts them at risk of anaphylactic shock – they could start wheezing, deal with hives and skin swelling and even severe symptoms, like a rapid heartbeat, trouble breathing and convulsions.

This group must carry an EpiPen in case an allergic reaction is triggered. Last year, more than 3.6 million prescriptions for the two-pack were filled, according to U.S. data. Mylan earned $1.7 billion.

What about in Canada?

Canada isn’t grappling with the same issue plaguing patients south of the border. Pfizer Canada doles out EpiPens through a Mylan license. The price hasn’t changed and it doesn’t appear to be changing either.

READ MORE: 5 common food allergies

Some U.S. reports suggest that Americans are driving to Canada to buy the EpiPen, saving four or five times the cost they would’ve paid in the U.S.

There’s a cheaper product In the U.S. called Adrenaclick, but it isn’t as familiar as the EpiPen so doctors rarely prescribe it.

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The Associated Press says Adrenaclick costs between $142 and $380 for a pair of syringes.

Click to play video: 'Rising EpiPen costs leaving U.S. patients feeling the pinch' Rising EpiPen costs leaving U.S. patients feeling the pinch
Rising EpiPen costs leaving U.S. patients feeling the pinch – Jun 17, 2016

WATCH ABOVE: Epinephrine injections are the only way to stop a severe allergic reaction once it starts. Now, with EpiPen as the only maker of the lifesaving medicine, both doctors and patients in the U.S. are reporting a sharp increase in the price of the device.

Other people get prescriptions for epinephrine vials and task their doctors with placing them in the syringe, but doctors warn that sterility, storage, and efficacy are issues. This leaves patients with incredibly limited options.

With files from the Associated Press

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca

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