Recent news stories about dramatic increases in the price of EpiPens, used to counteract severe allergic reactions, have caused alarm among consumers who depend on this drug to keep themselves and their children alive. Other drugs are also seeing excessive price increases, a disturbing development for those who regularly use these medications to maintain their health. Insulin, a drug that patients with diabetes use on a daily basis to maintain normal blood glucose levels, has recently experienced a dramatic price increase.
Price Increases For EpiPen
The problem of rising prices came to the public’s attention most recently with news stories about the 500 percent rise in price since 2007 of EpiPens, an injectable form of epinephrine used to relieve allergic reactions. Although the manufacturers, Mylan Pharmaceuticals, offered a discount for patients in financial need, the price still presents a burden. In addition, there was no obvious cause for the astronomical rise in price of the drug. The only competitor dropped out of the market last year, leaving Mylan the only provider of the easy-to-use form of epinephrine.
Recent Insulin Price Increases
Like EpiPens, a generic option for insulin is unavailable. Insulin is a hormone that helps to regulate blood glucose levels in the human body. When the pancreas fails to make sufficient insulin, as in Type-1 and Type-2 Diabetes, insulin must be provided through injection. Generally, insulin costs the average patient between $120 to $400 each month. However, insulin prices have been rising dramatically, putting this necessary medication outside the reach of many individuals. The reason there is no cheap, generic insulin alternative for these patients relates to how this important medication was developed. Even today, drug companies continue to improve upon insulin manufacturing, thereby extending drug patents. This prevents the expiration of patents which usually triggers the development of generic alternatives. Because of this regulation, insulin price increases can continue to happen from drug manufacturers as often as they desire.
Keeping Drug Manufacturers Accountable
Finding ways to keep drug prices in line is a critical component of ensuring the financial stability of the general healthcare system. Significant amounts of taxpayer dollars are spent on funding medications for the Medicare and Medicaid program. In addition, the Affordable Care Act of 2010 increased the amount of subsidy provided for those who were formerly uninsured. These facts have caused legislators to look closely into a number of remedies for rising drug prices:
- One method is to take Medical Loss Review measures. This strategy requires insurance companies to use at least 80 percent of their premium dollar solely for patient care. Limiting the amount of money that drug companies can use for overhead and profit helps to ensure value for patients.
- Another method is to link pricing to Food & Drug Administration approval, so companies are compelled to maintain the affordability of drugs that come to market.
- A third method is to use a calculation like the QALY, the “quality adjusted life years” to determine whether the price of a drug represents good value to both the quantity and quality of patients’ lives.
The problem of price gouging by drug manufacturers of medications that their customers desperately need is becoming an issue that needs thorough investigation by regulatory agencies to protect consumers’ interest. Individuals may be interested in legal recourse to protect their rights as consumers of these products.
Contact Sadaka Associates if you want to help keep the drug manufacturers accountable.