EpiPen price hikes affect MU students

Freshman Ruby Redekopp: “I didn’t ask to have my allergy. People are profiting off of my medical disability.”
Photo illustration of an EpiPen injection.

When freshman Ruby Redekopp was 18 months old, her mother fed her a peanut butter cookie, exposing her to peanuts for the first time. Her eyes started watering and her throat began to close. Her mother rushed her to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with a severe anaphylactic peanut allergy.

Redekopp has been carrying an EpiPen ever since. EpiPens contain a small dose of epinephrine, a chemical that narrows blood vessels and opens airways. Users administer the medication by injecting themselves, and the epinephrine can stabilize the user until they are able to reach a hospital.

In 2007, pharmaceutical company Mylan purchased pharmaceutical company Merck’s generic drugs unit, including the patent for EpiPens, according to Business Insider.

Since then, the price of a standard two-pack of EpiPens has risen from $93.88 in 2007 to $608.81 this year, according to Truven Health Analytics.

However, the epinephrine used in each EpiPen costs about $1, according to a Bloomberg report.

For Redekopp, these price increases aren’t just a nuisance. They’re a matter of life and death.

Though she hasn’t had an allergic reaction since she was a toddler, expiration dates require Redekopp to replace her EpiPen every year.

“It’s been tough the last couple years,” she said. “I think that it’s a little frustrating that the EpiPen prices are so high because I didn’t ask to have my allergy. People are profiting off of my medical disability.”

Her family’s insurance deductibles rose in 2014 as the prices of EpiPens skyrocketed. This combination put a financial strain on the family.

“I used to keep a running record of what I paid for EpiPens, but I threw it out a couple of years ago because I got depressed looking at how the prices had gone up,” Redekopp’s mother, Sara Redekopp, said in an email.

Part of the issue is that there are not many alternatives to Mylan’s EpiPen. According to the Huffington Post, the EpiPen holds 94 percent of the market share.

“Even though epinephrine is a very old medication, there is no generic,” Dr. Christine Franzese, the director of the MU Allergy Center, said.

Franzese and her colleagues are searching to find affordable options for patients unable to pay full price for EpiPens.

“There are a couple practices that have started to give their patients these kits that are kind of homemade,” Franzese said. “They’ll give them a vial of epinephrine and some syringes and training on how to use them.”

Though this configuration saves money, it also has drawbacks.

“If you’re in the middle of an emergency reaction, the concern is, are you going to be able to remember exactly how to do it and how to do it properly?” Franzese said.

Unlike EpiPens, which administer a preset dose of medicine, a patient using a vial of epinephrine must be able to measure a dose before injecting themselves.

“That is something that our doctors struggle with and our allergy societies are trying to work with,” Franzese said.

Franzese feels there should be a simpler solution.

“There’s no reason this life-saving medication should be this expensive,” Franzese said. “I strongly encourage people to call their congressman or senator. We shouldn’t have people, particularly young kids, at risk of dying so that a drug company can make a profit.”

Edited by Kyra Haas | khaas@themaneater.com

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