VIENNA, Va., Sept. 6, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The recent headlines concerning the price of EpiPen auto-injectors are alarming and rightfully capture people's attention, but what's overlooked is the prices are only one piece of a puzzle reflecting a broken healthcare system, according to Allergy & Asthma Network, the leading patient education and advocacy nonprofit organization.
Mylan, manufacturer of the EpiPen, is expected to provide documents on EpiPen pricing to a Congressional oversight committee this week.
"As a patient advocate and mother of five children, including one with food allergies, I have experienced epinephrine price hikes firsthand," says Tonya Winders, President and CEO of Allergy & Asthma Network. "The EpiPen price increase by Mylan is frustrating for patients and families, however the price is also due to significant costs added on by pharmacy benefit managers, health insurers, wholesalers and retailers."
Mylan's $274 price per EpiPen two-pack is boosted another $334 by intermediaries, resulting in the $608 list price. Due to existing contractual agreements with pharmacy benefit managers and health insurers, Mylan cannot reduce the price of EpiPens for at least 12-24 months. The pharmaceutical company's recent move to create and sell a generic version of EpiPen is a step in the right direction, helping to cut out-of-pocket expenses for patients. But this still does not solve the problem.
Meantime, millions of Americans are choosing government or private health insurance that features lower monthly premiums but higher annual deductibles. Historically, people paid for their healthcare needs with fixed copayments, often $20 or $40, but in the past six years, copayment spending has dropped significantly while deductibles and other costs have risen dramatically, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
This is all part of a trend in healthcare that increasingly shifts the burden of medical costs onto patients, Winders says. According to the Milliman Medical Index, prescription drugs now comprise 15.9% of total healthcare spending for a family of four. "No one should be forced to weigh costs to obtain life-saving medications such as epinephrine," Winders adds. "This drug is not a luxury; it's a lifeline."
How is Allergy & Asthma Network working to ensure access and affordability of epinephrine?
- First, we are working with pharmaceutical companies. Patients and families most affected by high prices are typically those who either have high-deductible health plans or don't have insurance. Manufacturers of life-saving medications should implement cost-saving programs to help these patients and families and be fully transparent on drug prices. Mylan took steps to improve EpiPen access and affordability by doubling the eligibility for its patient assistance program – but more needs to be done.
- Next, we are working with government and commercial insurers. Politicians should encourage insurers to add epinephrine to the preventive drug lists. This means EpiPens would be available to all patients and families without out-of-pocket expense, regardless of the health insurance plan they use.
- Finally, we are working with patients and families. Regardless of what drug and insurance companies do, or what the government does, there needs to be more education on the patient level. The healthcare system and health insurance plans are extremely complicated and often hard to navigate, but with the right support and advice, parents can learn how to reduce their medication expenses (such as with the My EpiPen Savings Card, available at www.epipen.com/copay-offer).
"Allergy & Asthma Network understands the public's frustration," Winders says. "The natural instinct is to put all the blame on big pharmaceutical companies like Mylan – and of course, they need to be held accountable for their pricing – but the conversation needs to be broader than with any one company. Patients, healthcare providers, pharmaceutical companies, intermediaries, insurers and federal decision makers – all need to work together to ensure these preventive life-saving medications are easily accessible and affordable to all."
Patients and healthcare professionals are invited to join the conversation – and help shape policy that ensures access to life-saving epinephrine for all – by participating in Allergy & Asthma Network's regional USAnaphylaxis Summits. Attendees will hear expert presenters address key issues related to anaphylaxis and epinephrine, with each presentation followed by a roundtable discussion.
2016 USAnaphylaxis Summit Dates and Locations:
- Friday, September 23: St Louis, MO
- Friday, September 30: Orlando, FL
- Friday, October 7: Las Vegas, NV
For more information on USAnaphylaxis Summits and to register, visit AllergyAsthmaNetwork.org/usanaphylaxis-summits.
About Allergy & Asthma Network
Allergy & Asthma Network is the leading national nonprofit organization dedicated to ending needless death and suffering due to asthma, allergies and related conditions. Allergy & Asthma Network specializes in sharing family-friendly, medically accurate information through its award-winning Allergy & Asthma Today magazine, E-newsletter, website at AllergyAsthmaNetwork.org and numerous community outreach programs. Follow Allergy & Asthma Network @AllergyAsthmaHQ on Facebook and Twitter.
Contact: Gary Fitzgerald
SOURCE Allergy & Asthma Network