EpiPen’s Prices Have Been Rising Drastically for Years. What Made People Finally Notice?

Source: CNBC

The price of the life-saving allergy medication, EpiPen has steadily increased ever since the pharmaceutical company, Mylan acquired the drug in 2007. In fact, the company has increased the price 15% every other quarter since the end of 2013. Nonetheless, only recently have the media and consumers revolted over this “price-gouging.” To confirm this trend and better understand what finally brought people’s attention to the topic, I turned to Quid in order to analyze thousands of articles published on EpiPen’s prices over the past two years.

While media coverage of this phenomenon only recently increased, other publications have tried to cover the issue. A local Connecticut newspaper, The Valley Advocate, ran a story titled, “Anaphylactic Sticker Shock” in August 2014. And the magazine, Pacific Standard, also covered the rising prices in their story, “A Simple Way to Save Lives — If You Can Afford It” in December of that year. Similar stories continued to trickle throughout 2015, but none of them stuck.

What can social sharing data tell us?

Zoning in on the past three months and examining the social sharing of these articles, Business Insider’s story on the use of syringes as an alternative to EpiPens is the first article to resonate on the subject.

Although the story is widely shared, it does not spark a greater conversation about the rising prices of the drug. Had Mylan paid attention to the social metrics of this article, it might have been better prepared for the hailstorm that would follow.

Did Bernie power outrage against Mylan?

NBC News published an article titled, “EpiPen Price Hike Has Parents of Kids With Allergies Scrambling Ahead of School Year” that began with the jaw-dropping lede, “The cost of saving your child’s life has gotten a lot more expensive.” None of the information in the article was particularly unique compared to the previous local news stories that covered the price hikes, but it did have one unique aspect: a comment from Bernie Sanders. The former presidential candidate excoriated the company and claimed, the “drug industry’s greed knows no bounds.” He then went on to tweet the article to his 3.3 million followers. Unsurprisingly, social shares for that article skyrocketed, and it was the beginning of the end for Mylan.

The New York Daily News also picked up the story the next day resulting in additional social shares. And NBC News continued their coverage of the situation by obtaining a statement from the despised “pharma-bro” Martin Shkreli, who appeared to condemn the company’s gradual price rises. This story was also widely shared, and it appeared enough was enough as right after the weekend, Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) inquired in to the company’s pricing practices.

Exorbitant executive pay seal’s Mylan’s fate

However, the final nail in the coffin for Mylan’s exorbitant pricing strategy was another story from NBC News that found the CEO’s pay rose 600% over the same period as EpiPen’s prices rose.

After such damning coverage, Mylan relented and released a new savings program that would cut costs of the drug for some buyers by $300. And it went a step further by launching a generic version in packs of two for $300. Despite these actions, it may be too little, too late for the pharmaceutical company. The damage has been done, and the woefully slow response has only tarnished the company’s reputation further.