Outrageous Pricing for Life-Saving Drug

Debra Reynolds

Life Saving EpiPen - A Medical Malpractice Attorneys ThoughtsThe EpiPen is an injection containing epinephrine, a chemical that narrows blood vessels and opens airways in the lungs in response to an otherwise deadly allergic reaction. Availability and use of an EpiPen is often the difference between living and dying to many who suffer with severe allergies to things such as peanut butter or insect stings.

 

The EpiPen:

  • Can cost as little as $20 to $30 to produce
  • The purchase price has increased to $500 or more

When a product’s purpose is to save a life, is it acceptable for the drug manufacturing company to charge the public well beyond the cost of production based on the drug’s life-saving properties? In a recent interview conducted by NBC News, a pharmaceutical representative said that the price increases of its EpiPen have:

  • “changed over time to better reflect important product features and the value the product provides,” and that
  • “we’ve made a significant investment to support the device over the past years.”

http://www.nbcnews.com/business/economy/epipen-price-hike-has-parents-kids-allergies-scrambling-ahead-school-n633071 [emphasis added].

First Responder - Medical Malpractice Attorneys Thoughts
What about the countless other products and professionals whose product or job description is to save lives, including:

  • Police Officers
  • Firefighters
  • Emergency Medical Service Technicians (EMT’s)
  • Nurses and Doctors

Should they justify their fee or price on the same basis? Certainly first responders provide priceless value in saving lives day-in and day-out. In comparison to the automated external defibrillator (AED) market, another lifesaving product, the price for AEDs has decreased in part because there are at least seven competing manufacturers. The NBC News article mentioned above explains that perhaps a large part of the reason that the EpiPen price has increased is the lack of competition with only one manufacturer. This is reminiscent of the AIDS drug maker that made headline news in 2015 for charging $750.00 for an AIDS drug that cost only $1.00 to make.

Since the NBC News publication of the article about the EpiPen price-hike, the manufacturer has announced its intention to start a generic line of the EpiPens and price it at $150 per pen (or $300 per pack of two). http://newsroom.mylan.com/2016-08-29-Mylan-to-Launch-First-Generic-to-EpiPen-Auto-Injector-at-a-List-Price-of-300-per-Two-Pack-Carton-a-More-than-50-Discount-to-the-Brand-Product. Why even make a generic or “carbon copy” of the original? One possible reason motivating the drug companies to make “carbon copies” might be to take advantage of the current federal Laws that allows immunity of generic drug manufacturers. The FDA regulates that warnings for generic drugs must be the same as the warning that had been previously approved for the non-generic name brand drugs. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a generic drug maker is bound by the FDA regulation. https://www.justice.org/news/supreme-court-expands-immunity-big-pharma. Even if the generic drug maker wanted to make the drug safer, they could not under the current FDA rules. Thus, if a consumer or patient is harmed or killed by a generic drug due to the drug’s inadequate labeling or defective design:

  • The manufacturer cannot be held accountable in court; and,
  • The injured patient has no recourse.

Our laws protect the unrestricted price of a product that could save a life. However, our laws:

  • Restrict any liability for the value to the life harmed or killed by the generic drug; and
  • Under tort-reform, cap the value of a life.

If you or loved one is prescribed a medication, you might opt for the name brand drug, despite the seemingly outrageous pricing, so that the manufacturer can be held liable if you or a loved one is injured from hidden risk, inadequate labeling, or defective design.