Alarming rise in cost of lifesaving EpiPen devices

For some people, falling prey to a bee sting or accidentally eating a peanut can mean death. And now, skyrocketing costs of a pocket antidote — the EpiPen — adds another form of panic.

The cost of those EpiPens — a trademarked device made by Mylan N.V. that can reverse the side effects of a severe allergic reaction — has quickly soared. When Mylan bought the rights to the autoinjector in 2007, a pair of its EpiPens sold for less than $60. Now they can sometimes cost patients more than $600.

Kansas City doctors said their patients talk with mounting anxiety about the runaway expense. Physicians typically recommend keeping two epinephrine, or adrenaline, injectors constantly at the ready for people with the life-threatening allergies. For children, that means two at home and two at school. Because the drug in the gadgets has a shelf life of about a year, parents can be looking at $1,200 annually.

Price boosts have been steady, but they accelerated recently after a key competitor to Mylan’s EpiPen fell out of the market. The Auvi-Q version of the gadget made by Sanofi US was recalled in November 2015. Teva was denied regulatory approval to sell a version early this year.

Another version of the device, Adrenaclick made by Amedra Pharmaceuticals, can sometimes be found for less than $150 for a single shot — although some pharmacies charge more than double that amount. It has not been marketed to doctors nearly as aggressively as the EpiPen or the now-unavailable Auvi-Q.

“Mylan … is exploiting a monopoly market advantage that has fallen into its lap,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, said recently.

The Dutch company reported a 33 percent increase in sales in the second quarter of this year in its specialty drug segment, which includes the EpiPen. Mylan CEO Heather Bresch told analysts in an earnings call earlier this year that the company was concerned about how shifting insurance coverages could hurt EpiPen sales.

Read more: Kansas City Star

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