It was a lovely spring morning. We were outside on the back porch coloring in a circus themed coloring book. Road construction was going a few streets over and a loud thumping repeated, shaking the ground as the workers broke up the concrete.
“Do you hear the elephants?” I asked.
My toddler son nodded, his eyes going wide.
“I think they are coming here! Let’s get some peanuts to feed them!”
He nodded his blonde head vigorously, grinning from ear to ear.
I ran inside and grabbed a bowl, pouring some peanuts into it.
Then I saw the cashews.
I’ll throw some in for fun!
I ran back outside and showed him the bowl of nuts. He grabbed a handful, as did I, and put a single cashew into his mouth. He chewed it, still smiling, and then swallowed.
Within seconds, his face turned ashen and his eyes were vacant. He stared off into nothing and would not respond to me at all. He was breathing was labored. His pulse was thready.
Then the hives appeared all over his body and he started to puke.
My son was having an anaphylactic reaction to cashews.
After that, I purchased an epipen and kept it on hand, just in case.
He has had subsequent severe reactions to pistachios and kiwis.
I say all of this to say that when I paid for the epipen the first time, it was $150 for a pair of them. Each year, I buy a new epipen to replace the expired one. Each year, the price goes up. Each year, I never have to use it I am throwing away hundreds of dollars. I hate that. Still. It’s my kid we’re talking about here. What kind of parent complains about spending money to protect their kid, right?
The other day I had a patient tell me that they just could not afford the cost of the epipen for their own son. With their high deductible plan they would be paying over $600 for a medication that they would hopefully never have to use. The price increase didn’t really matter so much to patients until the high deductible plans started to become the norm. The price difference before was picked up by insurance companies. Now, it is the patients getting stuck with it.
Yesterday, I ran across this article from the Washington Post about the soaring cost of epipens. Epipens have been around since 2004 but the cost has increased over 450%.
One quote in particular stood out to me:
Mylan (the manufacturer) itself is tight-lipped about the cost increase, saying only that it “has changed over time to better reflect the multiple, important product features and the value the product provides.”
So just how much are you willing to pay for your child’s life? For any child’s life? For a grown up’s life? Because that is what “value” is referring to here. They are holding my son’s life, your child’s life, for ransom. As for important product features…. it injects epinephrine. With a needle.
Meanwhile, Heather Bresch, the Mylan CEO who has been with the company through the epipen price hikes, has had a substantial pay increase. Her salary in 2007 was $2,453,456. Last year it was $18,931,068. Which makes me ask the question, how much money does she need?
Dearlilyjune asked what I thought was the greatest health crisis of our time. This is it. The sky rocketing cost of medical care. Pharmaceuticals. Imaging. Hospitalizations. Charging exorbitant amounts just because they can. There is nowhere quite like healthcare where they have you by the balls. Want to live? Want to have a good quality of life? Great! Pay some fat cat through the nose.
It is the worst in the US right now, but I figure it will be only a matter of time before this sort of thing catches on elsewhere. You cannot argue that the strategy makes money. It’s legal, even if it is unethical.
Greed is powerful.