When it really is your money or your life

This isn’t the first time I’ve talked about EpiPens and, at the rate things are going, it probably won’t be the last.

I just filled a prescription for my son’s epinephrine injectors. If you don’t know what those are, I’m truly happy you’ve never had to experience the reason they’re used. EpiPens, as they’re typically known by their prescription name, are life-saving devices that lessen the severity of allergic reactions. This could mean a reaction to a bee sting, or exposure to peanuts—whatever causes anaphylaxis. In the case of my toddler, it’s dairy and eggs.

If you haven’t heard everything going on in the world of Mylan, the EpiPen manufacturer, you can read my earlier post. Basically, the company increased the cost of the device to an astronomical amount not seen in other developed countries, all while claiming they’re not getting rich off the increase.

I consider myself very blessed that we were able to get several generic epinephrine injectors for free (well…I’m sure our deductible will go up; nothing is truly free, right?) due to a co-pay discount the doctor gave us. But, it got me thinking. What if I didn’t have that discount? Or, what if my deductible was so incredibly high because it has to be—because paying pricey premiums just isn’t feasible—and I, like many Americans, have to come up with the out-of-pocket cost of this life-saving medicine?

I took an average of the current price (with coupon) of EpiPens across the market, and came up with $643.75 per two-pack. Here’s a sample of some of those prices:

 

epi-costs

 

Then, I took a look at my finances. Where I’m at, smack dab in the middle of the country, the cost of living is relatively low, so these numbers won’t be the same for everyone. Still, take a look at what $643.75 will buy:

  • 322 loaves of bread
  • 495 cartons of eggs
  • 161 packages of toilet paper
  • 65 movie tickets
  • 214 gallons of milk

  • 815 bananas
  • 5 months of electric bills
  • 357 gallons of gas — enough to go nearly 9,000 miles

copy-of-oakcityfolk-com

  • 21 pairs of $30 shoes
  • 10 complete outfits ($30 shoes, $20 pants, $10 shirt)
  • 6 1/2 years of Netflix streaming
  • Apartment rent for a month

That last one gets me. Because the sad reality is that some people are faced with such a decision. While some of the comparisons I made are admittedly just luxuries (Netflix, for example), some of those things aren’t. Clothes, food, rent.

If you’re not convinced there’s a problem here, let me explain that experts have confirmed that making an EpiPen—which contains trace amounts of epinephrine, and lots of cheap plastic—doesn’t cost much. In fact, some Silicon Valley engineers just broke down the true cost and came up with $8.02 for a two-pack.

$8.02

As a reminder, a current EpiPen averages $643.75. With a coupon.

The problem isn’t all with Mylan, the manufacturer. There’s the insurance companies and plenty of third parties who get their cut, proving big medicine is a serious issue in this country.

I recognize that EpiPens aren’t the only life-saving medicine receiving this kind of price hike. Cancer treatment has been notoriously expensive for similar reasons. People who need certain medication to survive will probably do whatever it takes to get those meds. So, why not make a killing—figuratively or literally—off them?

Again, I’m blessed to have received the discount on my son’s medicine. I’m grateful to live in a country where we have medicine to begin with. I don’t take for granted the reality that I can take my son to a prestigious hospital if he has a reaction, and feel secure in the treatment he’d receive.

But, what about those who do have to pay full price? And, what is really going on with the price increase in the first place?

I pray you’ll never have to use an EpiPen. I hope, if you have to buy one, that the $650 spent just wastes away wherever your dusty epinephrine injector sits. Because after a year, they expire. And if it expires, you didn’t have to use it to save your child’s life. And maybe next year, they won’t cost as much a brand new iPhone 7.

Click for large infographic
Click for large infographic

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