Column: Why introducing the generic EpiPen could change lives

Making EpiPens more accessible has the power to improve the lives of so many people, especially those who don’t have insurance.

Madi Baughman is a sophomore journalism and political science major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about political and civil rights issues for The Maneater.

For many people at risk of severe allergic reactions, there may be good news coming in the near future. Recently, the FDA approved the first generic version of the EpiPen (epinephrine) and EpiPen Jr. auto-injectors. An EpiPen is used as emergency treatment for allergic reactions, which even saves the lives of those suffering from life-threatening allergies when they go into anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that affects the whole body and can lead to death. This is more common than one might think, as it occurs in one in 50 Americans, so it definitely affects the lives of many people on campus, and college budgets are already tight enough for most people.

Making EpiPens more accessible has the power to change so many lives, especially for people who don’t have insurance. Without insurance, the price of a two-pack of EpiPens is up in the hundreds of dollars. Mylan Pharmaceuticals, the maker of EpiPens, steadily increased the price of EpiPens up to $600 back in 2017 for a pack of two, and even with coupons the company offered, that still put the price at $300. This is still too high for many people, especially families who may need more than one pack to protect their kids from allergy attacks. There is also a current supply disruption of EpiPens, and the FDA put it on its list of drugs in short supply.

Fortunately, with this new generic option becoming a reality in a few months, pharmacists will be able to substitute this version of the medicine when doctors prescribe an EpiPen, which is expected to lower the cost of the medicine through competition, as well as combat the shortage.

This competition is important and should be continued because not only will it make the price more affordable for people without insurance/people whose insurance will not cover the full cost of the EpiPen, it also makes it so that Mylan no longer has a monopoly over the medicine necessary to save lives, since the generic brand will be manufactured by Teva Pharmaceuticals. Whereas they could raise prices as high as they wanted before, they will now have to face competition and keep prices in check to retain customers. Keeping big business — sometimes referred to as “big pharma” when describing the medical industry — in check is an important step forward in making medicine more fairly accessible for all people, not just those who can afford it. Everyone deserves to be able to have access to medicines that they may need to survive.

This could also open the door for more medicines to hold generic options, or even lower-cost options, in the future. With so many people in need of medication who can’t afford it — estimates say that around 1 in 7 people don’t fill their prescriptions because it costs too much — genericizing medicine is one possible solution to the problem that would benefit everyone.

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