[Sept. 2016 Opinions] Epipen prices force users to risk their lives

By Melanie Lust ’19 Assistant Creative Director and Eliza Goldberg ’17 Creative Director

Every three minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room, as reported by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention.

When I was eight years old, I contributed to that statistic; I unknowingly ingested food that had been cooked in peanut oil. My family and I had known about my allergy to peanuts long before then, but I had never had an accidental reaction until that day.

If not for my Epipen, a device that instantly treats allergic reactions to food, I might not be alive today.

Epipens are filled with a life-saving chemical called epinephrine that instantly treats anaphylaxis, the reaction that causes fatalities in those with food allergies. As stated in an article by the LA Times, “The Epipen allows patients or aid givers with little-to-no training to quickly inject epinephrine…boosting low blood pressure and opening restricted airways.” The pens have prevented countless deaths since their invention.

According to NBC News, Epipen prices have gone up 400 percent to nearly $650 since the Mylan company first acquired the brand. Epipens have become so expensive that people cannot afford to spend money on a device that could save their lives.

Therefore, people must decide: have assured safety or be cost effective.

Some have been forced to rely on alternative methods that are much less effective. In an article about Epipen alternatives, PBS News describes how “many emergency medical responders — and some regular families — are turning to manual syringes as a cheaper alternative.” But the problem is, it is much more difficult to get the correct dose and to safely administer a syringe.

Families of those suffering with allergies are turning to Mylan’s CEO, Heather Bresch, to take the blame. Although she made the choice to increase prices, the institution that should be held most responsible is not the company, but the U.S. government.

The government has allowed all demand to concentrate solely on the Epipen, explains the Washington Post Business. With essentially no competition for Mylan, they’ve monopolized the industry of allergic reaction treatment. Unless a really viable alternative comes around, they will continue to hold that monopoly and continue to manipulate prices as they wish.

It’s just sad at this point to have such an invaluable product completely at the mercy and management of one of the most powerful institutions in the world. What other choice do families like mine have but the now overpriced Epipen?

The center for Food Allergy Research and Education states that over 15 million Americans currently suffer from a food allergy. Until a viable alternative comes along, if it comes at all, those people will be forced to make the choice between their wallets and their own safety.