I threw away $1,500 last year.
It was bittersweet. I was happy to do it because it meant we didn’t need to use any of the three sets of EpiPens we purchased last year. I was sad to do it because – well – one thousand, five hundred dollars, people!
It seems as if we are among the (very) fortunate (very) few whose insurance still covers the majority of the EpiPen cost, and with the $0 copay card, it’s much easier for us to say that we threw away that kind of money because – well – it wasn’t ours. Even so, I prefer to not burn anyone’s cash, not even our insurance’s. It doesn’t seem like the best use of anyone’s funds when there are so many in need.
This is what gets me about the EpiPen: the autoinjector device was designed for military personnel decades ago in order to keep our soldiers well in case they were exposed to nerve agents in battle.
Therefore, I assume the cost of designing the device is fully covered by now. I also imagine the bits of molded plastic that create the autoinjector likely don’t cost much to produce on an automated manufacturing line. In addition, I can’t imagine that the medication that goes into the device (epinephrine) is so expensive to manufacture that each set of two autoinjectors should cost an average of $500 to purchase.
So why in the world does it cost so much? (You guessed it, that’s a fully rhetorical question. I can venture some guesses, as can you.)
Hopefully soon we will have smaller, more user-friendly devices to serve as our go-to autoinjector for epinephrine. Perhaps this will create a different supply and demand dynamic for EpiPen’s maker, Mylan. For now, though, the EpiPen is our only line of defense against an anaphylactic reaction, and it just costs too damn much.
On the heels of a study released by Northwestern University and reported by the LA Times, we know that food allergies are more expensive for lower-income families. For many households, purchasing even one set of EpiPens can nearly break the budget, so they do their best by buying one package and splitting up the two in the set, sending one to school and keeping one at home. (FARE’s recommendation by the way, is to carry two at all times in case one malfunctions or in the event emergency personnel do not arrive before a second dose is needed.)
Fortunately, there are ways to save on an EpiPen purchase, or to even work with the manufacturer, Mylan, if your family cannot afford an EpiPen purchase at all. Kids With Food Allergies has an excellent, comprehensive guide for this.
I’m happy there are mechanisms in place to help those who do not have the means to access epinephrine otherwise, but it seems to me that a potentially life-saving medication should not have to be so expensive that a family would have to choose between putting food on the table and purchasing a set of autoinjectors.
It just doesn’t seem right.
Here’s hoping we see some serious, market-driven competition for consumers, soon.