EpiPen fallout hitting St. Louis area

ST. LOUIS, MO (KPLR)-  There is outrage over the skyrocketing cost of the life-saving devices. There's an online petition (http://www.petition2congress.com/20720/stop-epipen-price-gouging/) calling for a congressional regulation and and investigation into alleged price gouging.

EpiPens inject the drug, Epinephrine in a single “quick click”. They save lives when allergic reactions can be fatal. More and more people in St. Louis are finding them out of their price range. They have been life-savers for people at risk of severe allergic reactions to everything from peanuts to bee stings. They’ve saved the 17 year old son of Laura Schulte of St. Louis twice through the years, she said. He was diagnosed with severe food allergies at age 2.

Wasp stings nearly killed St. Louis Police Officer, Joe Crews, five years ago when he was off duty, rehabbing a building. Paramedics stuck him with an EpiPen just in time. EpiPen maker, Mylan, has drastically hiked prices. EpiPen kits now retail for $600, a whopping 30 times more than Schulte paid 12-15 years ago. “They come in 2-packs. It was $40 … our allergist would also give us a coupon so we got half off. So it was about $20 out of pocket,” she said. “It would be nice if the pharmaceutical companies realize that when they hold this type of ransom over people’s heads, it’s something families like this don’t forget.”

“People will say to me, ‘we have a $2000 copay. We haven’t reached it yet’”, said Joy Krieger, Executive Director of the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of St. Louis. “[They say] ‘we’ve got to pay all that $600. What can I do? I’m at the pharmacy. My child needs this. I have to walk away. There’s no place I can tell them to go that there’s a break somewhere. There isn’t.”

Democratic Presidential Nominee, Hillary Clinton, even posted a Facebook rant on the issue saying in part: “That’s outrageous…and it’s just the latest troubling example of a company taking advantage of its consumers…it’s wrong when drug companies put profits ahead of patients, raising prices without justifying the value behind them.”

“For a product that you have to have. It keeps your child alive,” Schulte said. “It is truly life and death,” said Krieger.

Mylan executives blame insurance companies and Obamacare for driving up costs.

Still, they're expanding programs to offer EpiPens at half-price and even no cost. Mylan already provides them free to schools (http://newsroom.mylan.com/2016-08-25-Mylan-Taking-Immediate-Action-to-Further-Enhance-Access-to-EpiPen-Epinephrine-Injection-USP-Auto-Injector)

The company released the following statement:

Mylan has worked to help patients with commercial insurance pay as little as $0 for EpiPen® Auto-Injector using the My EpiPen Savings Card®. In 2015, this resulted in nearly 80% of these patients paying nothing out of pocket for their EpiPen® Auto-Injector. However, as the health insurance environment has evolved, driven by the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, patients and families enrolled in high deductible health insurance plans, who are uninsured, or who pay cash at the pharmacy, have faced higher costs for their medicine.

Mylan is taking the following immediate actions to help further address the needs of patients and families:

· For patients in health plans who face higher out-of-pocket costs, the company is providing immediate relief by offering a savings card for up to $300. This will effectively reduce by 50% the cost exposure for patients who would have otherwise paid the full list price for EpiPen® Auto-Injector.
· Mylan also is doubling eligibility for our patient assistance program to 400% of the federal poverty level. This means a family of four making up to $97,200 would pay nothing out of pocket for their EpiPen® Auto-Injector.
· Further, Mylan will continue to offer the EpiPen4Schools® program. The program, launched in August 2012, has provided more than 700,000 free epinephrine auto-injectors and educational resources to more than 65,000 schools nationwide to help them be prepared for anaphylaxis events among students.
· Mylan also is opening a pathway so that patients can order EpiPen® Auto-Injector directly from the company, thereby reducing the cost.
These programs will apply to EpiPen® and EpiPen Jr® (epinephrine injection, USP) Auto-Injectors.

The Asthma & Allergy Foundation (http://aafastl.org/) (314-645-2422) also has low-cost/no-cost programs from qualifying families earning less than 200% above poverty level.

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