EDITORIAL: Society’s allergy to corporate greed
EpiPen prices puts human lives at risk for sake of bonuses
Just a quick search on WebMD gives you a list of allergies: 10 food allergies, four seasonal allergies, two pet allergies and 15 other allergies. Allergens trigger exaggerated responses from our body’s immune system, and it is so common that about 50 million people in North America alone suffer from this reaction.
We can go through mundane rituals and find ourselves, or our loved ones, unexpectedly exposed to any allergen at a moment’s notice. And the fact that peculiar forms of allergies exist, such as sun allergies, nickel allergies, dust allergies and a litany of others shows the inevitability of exposure and highlights its omnipresent hazard.
Your mom might be preparing food and accidentally expose herself to fish remnants someone forgot to clean up, so she collapses on the floor gasping for air because her chest is tightening. You might be having dinner with your boyfriend, and parts of his body might start to swell after accidentally eating nut particles, and the swelling of his tongue and throat obstructs his airways — he starts choking. Allergens are everywhere, having the constant potential to be fatal.
But there is a drug company that exploits the necessary immediate relief from allergen-induced symptoms, and it is gaining notoriety from pocketing huge financial gains and the expense of human lives: Mylan. The company produces the brand-name EpiPen — a syringe that holds epinephrine and treats allergic reactions. A set of two EpiPens is now around $600, which is more than a 400 percent increase since 2009 when the price was closer to $100. Meanwhile, NBC News reports that industry insiders say that the company pays no more than $30 to create the product.
Mylan is rolling in profits, bringing in up to $1 billion last year, and CEO Heather Bresch giving herself a $16 million pay raise ($2,453,456 in 2007 to $18,938,086 in 2015). But the people who depend on this life-saving product barely scrape by as they attempt to afford this skyrocketing price hike.
The fact that a company can greedily abuse its customers points to a broken healthcare and pharmaceutical system, where drug prices can skyrocket at the whim of monopolizing companies. Mylan evades responsibility for the dramatic prices by putting the blame on middlemen and suppliers that have supposedly forced them to jack-up prices for the EpiPen, but according to the article by NBC News, under standard industrial practices most middleman and supplies take only a single-digit percentage of the profit.
Waves of furor ripple over this country, and rightly so, but there are other company’s that may be doing the same thing but fall under the radar. What would happen if Mylan was steadily increasing its price, rather than raising it sharply, and was working on a product that did not affect as many people as allergies do (let us say, a product for HIV or multiple sclerosis)? It would not be anymore acceptable for other companies to manifest their corporate greed, but they are not as high profile or are largely perceptible within public consciousness. Stronger customer protection policies are needed to create fair prices for a variety of life-saving drugs.
In a capitalist system the way you spend your money is in some ways like voting — you pay for what you want to survive and you don’t pay for what you don’t want to continue developing. CEO Mark Baum and his company Imprimis Pharmaceuticals are creating an EpiPen alternative that will cost around $100, and Baum says he does not need Bresch’s $19 million salary. Recently, Baum and his company have also produced a $1 alternative to the $750 AIDS drug Daraprim (remember Martin Shkreli) and now the alternative to the EpiPen is its new project. When the cheaper EpiPen alternative comes around, people should opt to buy from the ethically-minded Imprimis rather than the money-hungry Mylan.
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