EpiPens won't be as expensive for the people buying them – but the price isn't actually going down.
The maker of the auto-injecting epinephrine shot – which can save someone's life if they're having a severe allergic reaction – said Thursday it would make some changes to reduce the increasing out-of-pocket cost of the drug.
Mylan pharmaceutical has been under rapidly rising pressure from U.S. lawmakers – including Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota – who want to know why the cost of the EpiPen went up 400 percent in the past seven years.
Klobuchar had joined in the recent outcry, calling for a Judiciary Hearing on the matter as well as an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission to see if any laws have been violated.
The Washington Post says Sen. Charles Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, has also spoken out on the issue. So has Bernie Sanders.
What Mylan is doing about it
Mylan apparently heard the chorus of disapproval, and is doing a few things it says will make the EpiPen cheaper for families.
- Offering a savings card of up to $300 for people whose health plans mean they face higher costs. That $300 "will effectively reduce" the cost of the EpiPen by half, the company says.
- Allowing more families to qualify for the patient assistance program – meaning they pay nothing out of pocket. They're allowing anyone earning up to 400 percent of the federal poverty line to be eligible now.
- Creating a way for EpiPens to be purchased straight from the company rather than through a pharmacy, to reduce the cost.
Mylan: It's not all our fault
After the announcement, Klobuchar took to Facebook and called it a "welcome relief" – but noted it doesn't address the root of the problem.
That's something Mylan is suggesting as well, pointing its finger at what CEO Heather Bresch called the "U.S. healthcare crisis," in which costs are being shifted on to consumers.
The pharmaceutical company also provided this little infographic as a way to tell what it refers to as "the entire economic story" of the EpiPen.
Basically, the company is saying if it could sell the drug at it's net price of $274 per two-pack, it would cut more than half the costs out of the picture. It claims another $334 per two-pack goes to other parties involved in the process.
Bresch, according to CNN, said the entire healthcare system needs to be "fixed."
"No one knows what anything costs," she added.
NBC News and others have noted Bresch's salary jumped from about $2.5 million in 2007 to $18.9 million in 2015 – a 671 percent jump. The price of an EpiPen went up 461 percent during that stretch.
Why is an EpiPen so expensive?
The EpiPen price increase came after Mylan fell into what was essentially a monopoly on the product. There used to be other similar injectors on the market, but one was recalled and another didn’t get FDA approval.
According to Forbes, the epinephrine itself isn’t what’s expensive – and the drug is the most important part.
What’s pricey – or at least raises the costs – is the auto injector pen which only one company has the rights to.
So basically, you’re paying for a system to perfectly calibrate $1 worth of epinephrine.
Forbes says there are other ways to inject the medication, like a syringe. However, it might not be as safe because the dosage isn’t calibrated. Also, injecting into a vein – as opposed to muscle, like you do with an EpiPen – is more dangerous.
Additionally, a syringe full of epinephrine goes bad after about three months, according to Consumer Reports. An EpiPen lasts about a year.