Having a child with allergies means always being on guard — looking at nutrition labels, avoiding certain outdoor (or indoor) areas, and denying play dates at houses with pets. Having a child with a severe allergy just got even more difficult following a huge spike in the price of EpiPens.
Many doctors recommend that people with serious allergies carry around two EpiPens — a lifesaving injection device to use during a severe allergic reaction — at all times. For parents, this could mean having a device in the car, at home, and at school just in case (not to mention that the devices, which are sold in dual packs, expire after a year, meaning annual replacements even if they weren't used).
Recently though, Mylan, the makers of the EpiPen, have made having the devices around in case of emergency more of a burden for many parents — the copay for two EpiPens has risen from about $100 to anywhere from $400 to $700 depending on pharmacy rates and insurance coverages.
Naomi Shulman has a 12-year-old daughter severely allergic to cashews and always has an EpiPen at school and home just in case. When purchasing two additional EpiPens to send to camp with her child this Summer, Shulman was shocked to hear that her copay had risen about $300 from last year and, for the first time in 10 years, considered risking not having the device around.
"I called the insurance company and asked why it was so high and was told that, actually, it's $700 total, and my copay is $400," Shulman told The New York Times. "It's very wrong. It's gouging [sic] parents about their children's lives. It's not like letting them sniffle. It's life or death."
Last year, EpiPen's competitor, a product called Auvi-Q, was removed from the market, giving EpiPen a monopoly on epinephrine pen sales. "This is a mainstream product that people carry, and it's getting harder and harder for people to afford it," said Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. "It's just another example of what we keep seeing – outrageous price increases when a monopoly situation ends up in a company's lap."