Shot to the wallet

With the price of insulin and EpiPens increasing, senior Mary Waxman and junior Cydney Willenbring advocate for a decrease in price.

Kathryn Case, Writer

Experiencing tingling in her mouth, throat closing in tighter and an extreme stomach ache is a reaction that is a monthly occurrence for senior Mary Waxman who is allergic to cats, dogs, pollen and most nuts.

“I unintentionally eat something at a restaurant that’s not completely labeled and I just have to take a Benadryl and wait it out,” Waxman said.

However, when Waxman was in elementary school and wasn’t as capable of handling her own allergies, her parents had her carry an Epinephrine Auto-Injector. This device, commonly known as EpiPen, is a medical device for injecting a measured dose of epinephrine by means of autoinjector technology in order to treat an allergic reaction.

“EpiPens, if given when symptoms first occur, immediately stop the anaphylactic reaction by relaxing the airway and increasing blood pressure and heart rate,” school nurse Becky Imlay said.

Mylan, the maker of EpiPen, has raised the list price of this life- saving device more than 450 percent since 2004, after adjusting for inflation, according to data provided by Elsevier’s Gold Standard Drug Database. A pack of two EpiPens could be purchased for about $100 in today’s dollars in 2004. The list price now tops $600, making it difficult for people to access the treatment they need. The Express reached out to Mylan for comment, but repeated requests for comment went unanswered.

Due to the rise in prices, Waxman said her family no longer stays up to date with her EpiPens.

“The reason we don’t keep up with buying a new EpiPen is because we are just putting our faith in the fact that we’ll be able to get something like Benadryl before we ever need an EpiPen,” Waxman said. “They expire so fast that you need to keep updating them especially if your allergies are severe.”

Although Waxman believes the prices are absurd, she understands free Epi-pens would be unrealistic.

“I understand having a cost, but it would be nice if they were free especially for people who, for them, it is a life-and-death scenario. It would be amazing if they were free,” Waxman said.

As of Feb. 27, a federal judge in Kansas City, Kan., allowed a lawsuit over the increase of EpiPen prices to move ahead as a nationwide class action. The U.S. District Judge, Daniel Crabtree, is now allowing consumers to sue for damages under stateantitrust laws. The lawsuit addresses whether Mylan is trying to monopolize the EpiPen market by dramatically increasing the prices.

“Of course [EpiPens and insulin] should be cheaper, but it is a difficult road to navigate because every person with a medical condition thinks their medicine is “necessary,” and in reality, it is,” Imlay said. “It is a business model between drug companies, insurance and pharmacies, and a very complex business model that does not favor the patient.”

Along with the rise in the price of EpiPens, the price of insulin has nearly tripled since 2002 according to a report from the American Diabetes Association. Insulin prices have increased 64 percent since 2014, and a bottle of insulin runs between $275 and $290, making it difficult for many people to purchase this necessary medicine monthly.

Finding out she had Type 1 Diabetes at age 13, junior Cydney Willenbring has been paying for insulin for about five years now.

“The price doesn’t affect me too much right now because my parents are the ones paying for it. However, it is scary to think about how I’m going to deal with it when I’m off of my parents insurance, especially coming right out of college and having debt to pay off,” Willenbring said. “It’s something that I need and not something that I can get by without, so it’s really scary to think about what I’m going to do if the prices don’t go down.”

Even with insurance, Willenbring said her family paid over a thousand dollars for one month’s supply of insulin.

“It definitely should be cheaper because it’s something that I need to survive,” Willenbring said. “It’s a life sustaining medicine, so people should be able to have access to it without it being so expensive.”