West Virginia Attorney General Orders Probe on EpiPen Pricing

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The makers of EpiPen is in hot water these days, thanks to West Virginia’s Attorney General who has ordered a probe on the former’s alleged fraudulent act.

Mylan bought the rights to sell and distribute EpiPen from Merck KGaA in 2007.  EpiPen is an injectable life-saving device containing epinephrine, also known as adrenaline.

According to sources, Mylan has raised the unit cost of EpiPen by a whopping 500 percent over the last eight years.

Mylan used to sell the device for less than $60 in 2007 but today Mylan sells it for $318 per unit.   

For those who can’t do without this life-saving device, there isn’t much choice left but to buy one despite the prohibitive price tag.  

For consumers who develop severe reaction to antigens, an insect bite for instance, the device could immediately reverse these reactions.  Having it on hand when the need arises is quite critical.

Weeks ago, fed up consumers have criticized Mylan for bumping up EpiPen prices over the years.  The company tried to subdue the public, hinting that a cheaper version of the drug is in the works.  Mylan says this newer version could fetch a price tag of only $150 – about half the price of the existing EpiPen.

However, some sectors remain disgruntled with Mylan’s innuendo, saying that EpiPens can be produced at a cost way below the $150 estimated price.

A group of biohackers called “Four Thieves Vinegar” asserts to have designed the EpiPencil – a device reportedly as effective as the EpiPen but with a glaring price disparity.  They claim that for a mere $35 per unit, the EpiPencil can do the job of a $318 EpiPen.

Four Thieves Vinegar recently published a do-it-yourself video on EpiPencil making.  According to the group, they can make the device in minutes but qualified that its users must take the initiative to measure the epinephrine content.

While EpiPen is a life-saving device, experts agree that it must be used only as a last recourse.

EpiPen is very popular because apart from its efficacy, the device is so convenient and easy to use.  Despite its practicality, there is a dearth of companies producing the device.  Mylan owns the patent for this simple, auto-injecting device and will continue to do so for another nine years.  This in part makes it difficult for companies to rival Mylan and start producing and marketing their own EpiPen-like devices.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a reminder that new versions of epinephrine injectables, like any life-saving devices must first undergo a battery of clinical tests before they can even be declared safe and effective.  While US FDA’s advice must be heeded, Four Thieves Vinegar showed that there could be cheaper alternatives out there just waiting to be tapped.    

With the ongoing probe, the ball appears to be in Mylan’s court and consumers are on the lookout for where it is headed.

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