Health

CVS Is Making EpiPen Pay for Jacking Up Its Price

Published On 01/13/2017 Published On 01/13/2017

Stabbing your friends to save their lives is an affordable way to spend Saturday night again, thanks to CVS. The drugstore chain has started selling a generic alternative to the EpiPen -- the pharmaceutical company Mylan's iconic, now-infamous allergy medication -- for just one-sixth of the name-brand version's price.

Mylan came under bipartisan scrutiny last year in a PR clusterfuck after hiking the price of the EpiPen above $600 for a two-pack. When the company acquired the decades-old product in 2007, a two-pack cost less than $100.

CVS will charge $109.99 for a two-pack of the generic version of Adrenaclick -- an authorized alternative to the EpiPen. Mylan's current EpiPen -- whether you pay retail price for the standard pen at $649.99 a pack or $339.99 a pack for Mylan's generic pen -- costs a hell of a lot more. Both the EpiPen and Adrenaclick are epinephrine auto-injectors approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for treating life-threatening anaphylactic shock caused by allergens.

"We recognized that there was an urgent need in the marketplace for a less expensive epinephrine auto-injector for patients with life-threatening allergies," CVS Pharmacy President Helena Foulkes said in a statement.

Mylan CEO Heather Bresch shamelessly copped to the extreme price increase, which lawmakers on Congress' House Oversight Committee described as having made the company "filthy rich."

"We absolutely raised the price and take full responsibility for that," Bresch said at a Forbes magazine function in December. She refused to testify before Congress on the issue the day before (after testifying in September) and has continually denied any wrongdoing since.

Nonetheless, no amount of denial can shake the public scandal surrounding Mylan's drug. The EpiPen's price has been hiked 16 times between 2008 and 2016 -- while Mylan's profit margins have soared from 8.8% to 60.3% in the same time period. It even began offering a generic EpiPen in August at $300, but that didn't stop comparisons to the likes of Martin Shkreli and Elizabeth Holmes from rolling in during a year of high-profile corporate pharmaceutical greed.

That much was true at the House Oversight Committee in September, where representatives made it clear they were tired of excuses. This is the same drug schools across the country relied on (now the subject of antitrust investigations). While the EpiPen's price rose 461% between 2007 and 2015, Bresch's salary shot up by 671%.

"The greed is astounding, it's sickening, it's disgusting," Rep. John Duncan (R-Tenn.) told Bresch to her face during the September hearing. "And I am a very conservative, pro-business Republican."

From the left, "The Socialist Senator" Bernie Sanders (D-Verm.) tweeted this in August, just as the scandal broke: "Something is very, very wrong when drug companies value their profits over the lives of their customers."

CVS just shot an arrow of shade across Mylan's bow. Here's hoping your friends don't die over a matter of $500 the next time they accidentally swallow a peanut.

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Eric Vilas-Boas is a writer and editor at Thrillist. Follow him @e_vb_.

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