Live by the EpiPen, die by the EpiPen

I wish I had a photo of Saturday to share with the world. A snapshot of what it’s like for a person who rides an extreme line when it comes to health. A view of my nightstand scattered with medications, tissues, and a blood-filled EpiPen. An upset preteen calling 911 and the other dragging my body down stairs. The chaos left behind after struggling for my life.

I’m habitually victimized by my own immune system. Dust, smoke, pets, grass, trees, and a page full of food allergies. Generally it’s just mild irritation or wheezing, but sometimes it breaks into Anaphylaxis and respiratory distress. A tightness that can only be compared to drowning while having a heart attack.

This is purgatory and countless individuals, diagnosed or not, suffer day-to-day with it. We have few instant resources to save ourselves, but they do exist. Tried-and-true safeguards invented in the 70’s that behave like adrenaline to push our bodies into overdrive. They give us enough time to seek help. The king of these at the moment, is the EpiPen.

Up to 15 million Americans have food allergies. Affecting 1 in every 13 children, or 8% of the population. 25 million Americans had asthma in 2009 up 5 million since 2001.

EpiPens expire. And once a year you need to re-up. When it’s time, I’ll normally buy four for under a hundred dollars (after coupons and rebates). One for the home, office, car, and my wife’s purse. You forget about them because they’re designed to be safeguards — a small peace-of-mind for everyone around me. Now, since tagging myself on Saturday, I’m going to need to refill that prescription.

The price though has changed, and CEO Heather Bresch of Mylan, the maker of the EpiPen, is telling us that the current $608 cost isn’t their fault. Claiming that the real culprit is the number of hands the product moves through and overbearing official bodies meddling in the process. Boasting instead of her company’s heroic work to pass legislation that puts their product in homes and schools around the world — saving millions.

I’d love to provide an expert opinion on the industry and governance wrapping this, but I can’t, and it doesn’t matter. What I can say, is that even if there is hyper overreach surrounding this product, massive cost overruns, and shortages, it doesn’t validate a price increase over a decade from $60 to $600, especially given this product was developed with taxpayer money and has remained unchanged.

If Mylan is the altruistic company they say they are, striving heroically to save the planet, they simply cannot justify a 10x price increase on a rescue device. Especially, when nothing has changed and they’ve been the only game in town since the end of the Vietnam War. This is not how a protagonist behaves. If you’re a selfless hero, taking massive bonuses and increasing profits isn’t an intentional motion. It’s the reward you earn from a society that appreciates the work you’re doing.

The adult EpiPen has 0.3mg of epinephrine. The cost of 1.0mg of epinephrine is around $2 dollars retail.

Even with medications, health insurance, and systems in place I almost died. I was lucky because I had that support, but there are many people that are in worse positions. Parents required to buy duplicates for school, minimum wage workers, and those without insurance. They’re simply not going to miss paying rent because they need insurance medicine — despite how illogical that might sound.

In 2012, studies indicate, about one in four American adults, perhaps 50 million people, failed to fill a prescription they needed because of the cost.

What happens next, is that people like myself will die, product names will be changed, CEOs like Martin Shkreli will be fired, and feel-good laws will be forced through containing loopholes and earmarks. It’s not change, its meaningless social compliance.

It’s now time to acknowledge the behavioral trend of influential medical manufacturers. This issue isn’t about the Affordable Care Act, the government, or pharmacies. It’s about corporate greed and the abuse of power that allows those organizations to take every ounce of advantage. Removing that power and binding them to ethical codes is a top priority and would have a sweeping impact on medical costs across the board.

If you want to truly make a difference, start by telling your story to everyone. Don’t be scared, many of us are sick and want to relate. Then spend five minutes calling your state representatives and ask them to work on four specific issues. Any of which can have a huge impact. I’ve written a script that should help.

Hello [representative],
I’m a concerned constituent. I believe the recent events regarding the EpiPen, Daraprim, and our pharmaceutical system are an example of a serious problem harming Americans health. I will support you and your campaign, if you work on these four solutions immediately. First, set a limit on out-of-pocket prescription costs. Second, push for a fast track approach for approval of critical generic versions of common drugs through the FDA. Third, set limits on the life cycle and allowed changes to pharmaceutical and medical device patents. Finally, allow limited importation of drugs from countries that have a regulatory system similar to that of the U.S to encourage competition.
Thank you for your time.
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