Rising Cost of EpiPens Unaffordable for Most Americans

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The cost of EpiPens has dramatically increased over the years—almost 500 percent since 2009—and the surging price tag has left many Americans wondering how they will afford the life-saving medication they need.

According to The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America(AAFA), 20 million American adults and 14 million American children have experienced an anaphylactic reaction to something they are allergic to, such as peanuts, wheat, or bee stings.

An anaphylactic reaction, which can quickly escalate into anaphylactic shock, is a severe allergic reaction that causes wheezing, difficulty breathing, hives, rash, and in some instances, death. For many, their survival depends on EpiPens, a medical device that injects a measured dose of epinephrine into the bloodstream to counteract the potentially life-threatening effects of anaphylactic shock.

As reported by CBS News correspondent, Vinita Nair, the actual cost to produce EpiPens is negligible for its manufacturing company, as each device only costs a few dollars to make. Yet the cost of EpiPens for some consumers is currently an unfathomable $900 or more, a price that has skyrocketed in recent years.

Vermont pharmacist, Rich Harvie, remembers when patients could purchase a pre-loaded syringe of epinephrine for less than 20 dollars. But when the EpiPen was patented in 1977 by the pharmaceutical manufacturing company, Pfizer, and its marketing affiliate, Mylan, the price tag began to climb. In 1986, an EpiPen cost $35.59. Now, the cost is nearly thirty times that amount.

The unaffordable high price of EpiPens has forced many Americans to forgo purchasing the medical device, despite knowing their lives are at risk without access to the fast-acting epinephrine the pens deliver.

Although there are many theories surrounding the consistent and dramatic increase in the cost of EpiPens, most Americans are sold on the idea that it is purely based on Big Pharma greed. While many Americans are left without the medication they need, others have paid the exorbitantly high price for an EpiPen, earning Mylan over $1 billion in annual sales, as reported by Bloomberg Businessweek.