The Real Reason Why EpiPens Got So Expensive...

Posted: Sep 21, 2016 8:20 AM

Over the past month, there has been much anger over the skyrocketing price of EpiPens, which are used to administer shots of epinephrine to treat anaphylaxis caused by food allergies. In 2009, the lifesaving devices cost about $100 for a two-pack, a price which rose to $600 by the spring of 2016. Now, we may know just why the price rose so dramatically: the mother of the CEO of Mylan, the company that produces the devices, is the head of the National Association of State Boards of Education, the group that made an "unprecedented" push to mandate that schools purchase the pens.

Since Gayle Manchin, mother of Mylan CEO Heather Bresch, was elected president of the National Association of State Boards of Education, the cost of the auto-injectors has skyrocketed as laws were passed that required schools to purchase the devices. Eleven states now mandate that school nurses offices keep a stock of EpiPens on site, which dramatically increased the demand--and price. The federal government also gives preferences to schools with EpiPens.

From USA Today:

In December 2012, the association announced an "epinephrine policy initiative" designed to "help state boards of education as they develop student health policies regarding anaphylaxis and epinephrine auto-injector access and use," according to a press release that month. The resulting policy “discussion guide” listed key components that school policies and state legislation should have, including protection from legal liability for the school.

It was the first time the group had addressed food allergies as policy despite its own admission that it had been a growing issue since about 2000.

Previously, the association carefully avoided corporate influence, especially when its policy guidance was involved, says Brenda Welburn, the former longtime executive director. Companies would sponsor conference meals at the most, she said.

Manchin became president-elect of the education association in late 2010 and Welburn retired at the end of 2011. Welburn recalls Manchin stopping by her office saying her "daughter's company" could donate to the group. The following year, it did. "It just looked so bad to me," Welburn said. "She (Manchin) becomes president and all of a sudden NASBE is saying EpiPens are a good thing for schools."

That's...pretty damning evidence.

Since the backlash, Mylan has offered coupons to help offset the price of EpiPens, and people have created cheaper alternatives.