Families face sticker-shock over skyrocketing cost of life-saving Epipens

FILE - In this July 8, 2016 file photo, a package of EpiPens, an epinephrine autoinjector for the treatment of allergic reactions is displayed in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

With their bright green boxes, and easy-to- use instructions, doctors and patients alike, agree Epipens are amazing devices.

“This product is a life-saving product that saves lives,” declares DC Allergist Talal Nsouli.

The portable, fast-acting auto-injector delivers a dose of Epinephrine to treat severe allergic reactions.

But it’s the Epipen’s price that’s leaving some families with medical sticker-shock.

“It makes you mad and frustrated,” says Suzanne Pilkerton, a District mother of four. “It’s a life-saving device. You have to get it. And yes, who gets the money and why is there such a big increase?”

Since 2007, the Epipen’s price tag has skyrocketed from $57 for a two-pack, to $736 this year.

“Patients should be able to afford it and not be exposed to this prohibitive type of pricing,” Nsouli says. “You're paying for a package… the plunger?” he was asked. “Exactly.”

Pilkerton’s fifteen year old daughter Madden, who has a nut allergy, carries the auto-injector everywhere she goes.

She says she’s lucky.

“I've been fortunate, never had to use one so, in a way, it doesn't go to waste,” she says. “You’re saving people’s lives, (but) by making it that expensive, some people wouldn't be able to afford it.

The devices expire after about a year.

Nsouli, in practice for 23 years, says some of his patients are choosing between expenses like their mortgages and getting Epipens.

The Epinephrine itself is relatively cheap.

“This container has 60 doses that you buy for $38 dollars,” Nsouli says. “So the medicine is probably less than one dollar per dose.”

Nsouli is also advising patients they can save $345, by purchasing a generic version of the Epipen.

Now, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are calling for the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Mylan’s trade practices.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, wants to know whether the company used incentives or exclusionary contracts to deny ‘alternative product access to the market.’

Lawmakers are also asking why Mylan CEO Heather Bresch’s yearly compensation rose from $2.5 -million to nearly $19-million between 2007 and last year.

Hearings could begin in a matter of weeks.

Meanwhile, the high numbers have left some families troubled and concerned.

“It's not something that you can just say ‘oh forget it, she can live without it,’ because she might not,” Pilkerton says. “I'd say shame on you. There's other ways to make money. It’s wrong,” she adds.

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