The Epi-pen has not radically changed in how it delivers epinephrine. The auto injector comes in two dosages; 0.3 or 0.15 mg vials for adults and children. Unlike the Auvi Q, the Epi-pen isn’t user friendly. It doesn’t talk you through the steps. Six and a quarter inches long with a four inch circumference, it’s the size of a small zucchini; A clumsy shape and hard to conceal or carry. Unlike the Auvi Q, it doesn’t fit neatly into a rear pocket without bulging out. There’s a reason why teenagers are loath to carry it on their person. It dangles like an appendage from a waist band, drawing attention to it and inviting all kinds of questions. In the past 16 years, I haven’t noticed any striking changes, except to packaging. It’s a little plush these days. Does that alone justify a 500% price increase?
In all of Mylan’s responses to public outrage over the soaring price of their flagship product, I’ve been searching for an explanation that makes sense. I am grateful to Mylan for making the product that has saved my child on more than one occasion. So instead of reacting violently to the price gouging, I gave the company the benefit of doubt. Maybe Heather Breach, CEO of Mylan, will say the company was investing a lot of the profits in Research and Development to make the product better, more user friendly, alter the design to make it easy to carry, or to find a way to increase the shelf life of the Epi-pen.
About that shelf-life. The first time I bought the Epipen, I hadn’t noticed the expiration date until I actually used it on my child. From the point of purchase to time of use, a mere six months had passed. And it was within a month of expiring. Yes, I know the medicine doesn’t turn inactive the minute it reaches its expiration date. It slowly loses it efficacy. But who in her right mind carries an expired Epi-pen? That year and others, we filled prescriptions more than once a year. And the pharmacists? They’re not without blame either. They simply want to clear their inventory and don’t care if the Epi-pen you buy is close to it expiration date. Most consumers fail to check.
Now I’m smarter, I ask the pharmacist to make sure the expiration date is at least a year out. And if he can’t comply, I take my business to a pharmacy that can accommodate me.
So how about it, Mylan? Find a way to increase the shelf-life of your product. It won’t excuse your unconscionable profiteering but if we didn’t have to fill prescriptions every year or twice a year because of a longer shelf life, I could make my peace with your greed. I understand how monopolies work and why you are allowed to exist. You quash competition because you hold a patent for this life-saver. Our laws allow it.
Yeah, it sucks, but again, my gratitude surfaces and I am thankful that my child lives because of the Epi-pen. But I’m also grateful to Benadryl, which has become our first line of defense against an allergic reaction. And I don’t see the makers of diphenhydramine price gouging.