Okay, this is a problem.
Any parent whose child has a severe allergy knows the potentially life-saving power of an EpiPen. The injectable can stop a severe reaction in its tracks, and is pretty much a necessity for some kids at home, and at school, camp, or day care.
I'll admit I don't have a child with a severe allergy, so I hadn't thought about the cost of this essential, airway-opening epinephrine shot. But according to The New York Times, a recent steep price hike has many families scrambling to afford it.
While a set of two EpiPens used to cost $100—already a pretty decent expense—now each injector set can carry a price tag of more than $600! Making matters worse is that Mylan, the pharmaceutical company that manufactures the pen, is really the only choice, other than manual syringes, which cost far less. But as Dr. Bruce Lanser, director of the pediatric food allergy program at National Jewish Health, tells Parents.com, "Manual syringes are very hard for non-medically trained people. The dose is very small, hard to measure, and you run a greater risk of injury using the needle."
Consider too that buying just one set of EpiPens is often not enough, as many schools require kids with severe allergies to have one on hand, as do sports teams and child care facilities.
For its part, Mylan says insurance companies are to blame, and it's true that the cost of the pens can vary patient to patient, depending on their coverage plans. The Times reports that the drug maker also offers a $100 coupon to help customers cover the cost. But remember, at more than $600 a pop, the coupon would only cover one-sixth of the price for the uninsured.
Understandably, the high cost has left many parents fuming, as they quite literally have no choice other than to pay up. So much so, that now lawmakers are getting involved. For Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, this issue is personal, as her own daughter carries an EpiPen. "It's just another example of what we keep seeing, outrageous price increases when a monopoly situation ends up in a company's lap," she says.
And there's even a petition to Congress that is gaining support online, as consumers demand an end to the price gouging—currently, it's more than 58,000 signatures strong. Here's hoping this call to action, and others, will draw attention to what is clearly a very serious issue for millions of families across the country.
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.