September 19, 2016
Imagine the decision: life saving medication or food. This is the reality for many Americans, especially after the recent Epipen price hike. The Epipen, an emergency medical injector for extreme allergic reactions, has raised its price to nearly $750 for a two pack. That same two pack cost about $100 in 2009.
Epipens are not a one time purchase. They continuously expire and are only good for one use, so if the patient has more than two allergic reactions, they have to purchase another pack. Some people with multiple extreme allergies are even required to carry more than two at a time, leaving them with the choice between following the doctor’s orders or preserving their bank account. A 40 hour workweek on minimum wage in Kentucky produces $310 before taxes, so people requiring these prescriptions with minimum wage jobs would have to spend at least two weeks worth of pay for their required medicine.
The alternatives to Epipens run few and far between. Of the two main alternatives, one just underwent a recall and the other uses completely different technology. A patient may choose to buy the drug inside the Epipen, epinephrine, for just a few dollars and fill their own syringes, but the dosages usually don’t turn out very accurate, especially if these syringes are being filled under a high pressure situation like an allergic reaction.
The drug price problem doesn’t stop with just the Epipen. Drug prices rose more than 10% in 2015, while the national inflation rate was only .8%. Drug companies and “pharma bros” (people who raise the price of drugs outrageously for more profit) are responsible for the price raises. Martin Shkreli, the most well known “pharma bro,” was arrested for fraud in 2015 after he raised the price of a cancer and AIDs drug with no known alternatives by 5,000% overnight. Even non-specialized, cheaper generic drugs rose almost 3% in price in 2015.
For something life saving and necessary for many Americans, drug prices are too high for anyone to be paying whether you are working on minimum wage or don’t struggle when these prices spike. Life saving drugs should not be a privilege.