Recently the Food and Drug Administration approved a generic version of the EpiPen and the EpiPen Jr, which could be a lifesaving move for severe allergy sufferers across America.
An EpiPen is a device used to inject measured doses of epinephrine to treat anaphylaxis. EpiPens are typically used by adults and younger patients with life-threatening allergies. Generic versions of medicines are currently provided for those who are low-income and cannot afford the expensive, standard brand-name medications, but with this approval, it will become even more affordable and accessible for life-saving care in the hands of those who need it the most.
For context, Mylan, the company that bought the rights to the EpiPen in 2006, raised the prices from $100 to over $600 over the past decade. This caused the company to face extreme backlash, yet the prices remained sky-high. Due to Mylan raising the price of the EpiPen in this way, many adults and younger patients couldn’t access them.
Hopefully the FDA approving the generic version will allow everyone with severe life-threatening allergies to better obtain them.
According to the FDA, “Today’s approval of the first generic version of the most-widely prescribed epinephrine auto-injector in the U.S. is part of our longstanding commitment to advance access to lower cost, safe, and effective generic alternatives once patients and other exclusivities no longer prevent approval.”
I think it’s great that they are providing an alternative version to the brand name expensive EpiPens. This is important for those who have to use these devices in case of emergencies. Anaphylaxis can be fatal, which begs the question: why are devices used to treat it so expensive? There are too many people that deal with life-threatening allergies whose lack of access to the drug could literally mean death.
On top of the price, Mylan also often experienced shortages of the EpiPen which caused many people to struggle with finding them from other companies.
The generic version of the EpiPen will be produced by the pharmaceutical company Teva. It is important for there to be a generic version not only because of the many people that have life-threatening allergies but because of the number of people that have life-threatening allergies and need multiple doses of epinephrine in case of emergencies.
According to the FDA, “Anaphylaxis occurs in approximately one in 50 Americans. People who have had an anaphylaxis episode always face the risk of another one. Because of this risk, they must carry an emergency dose of epinephrine at all times. Many must keep more than one dose at hand.”
It shocks me that the price of EpiPens have been as expensive as they are. It seems incredibly classist, and marginalizes those who need the drug. Keeping Americans from receiving adequate health care is criminal. A life or death situation should not be made by a corporation’s budget margin.
According to The Guardian, “In the case of medicine, monopolies emanate from patents. Typically a patent lasts for 20 years, but drug companies are expert at getting them extended. As long as the monopoly is in place, the company selling the drug can essentially charge whatever they want for it.” Medicine has always been a contributor to capitalism that inherently seeks to limit accessibility.
By allowing pharmaceutical companies to obtain patents and charge whatever they want for medicines, that means that there is no control. What is important to them is finding a price point that only allows for maximization of profits. Monopolies are not sustainable, moral or efficient because it denies poorer citizens a way of being able to afford medicines.
Having access to the EpiPen is important. There shouldn’t be a question of being able to afford it or obtain it. For a single-use medical device, the price to obtain one is ridiculous. The pharmaceutical industry is known to have caused issues when it comes to accessibility because of the way that medicines are produced and priced. Overall, this is a big step forward for people who deal with anaphylaxis but I do know that there is more to be done.