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Coping with the skyrocketing costs of EpiPens

WJZ News CBS
Devin Bartolotta
September 22, 2016

There is renewed outrage over the astronomical cost of life-saving prescription drugs, one day after EpiPen’s maker, Mylan, had a heated face-to-face discussion with Congress over its prices.

Mylan isn’t the first to stand in front of government officials and defend their through-the-roof prices, but some are hoping they might be the last.

Pharmaceutical companies can seem unstoppable, jacking up prices that put vital medication out of reach for millions of Americans.

“I’m sure somebody said to them, you know, look, you just go in there, Congress is going to be upset with you, but afterward, you’ll just come out of there and we’ll just keep raising prices!” said Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings.

Mylan CEO Heather Bresch was the latest to face Congress, but not the first. Former CEO Martin Shkreli faced Congress seven months ago after hiking the price of an HIV medication by more than 5,000 percent.

Naloxone, for heroin overdoses, cost $1 ten years ago, and now costs $40. The cure for hepatitis C runs $1,000 a day for 12 weeks.

EpiPens, medication vital for those with severe allergies, now cost $600 per pack–impacting moms like Suzanne Schlattman every single day.

“It sure is hard hearing a CEO who makes $18 million- that those rebates are a way that they’re helping families like mine,” said Schlattman.

Even after companies are publicly shamed by Congress, there’s little confidence that patients will see any relief.

Health care advocate and president of Maryland Citizen’s Health Initiative, Vincent DeMarco, calls it price gouging.

“This is about all prescription drugs. These prices are astronomical for many Americans,” said DeMarco.

Millions of families’ hands are tied because they’re at the mercy of drug companies’ price tags.

“Anything could happen. And without an EpiPen, he could die,” said Schlattman.

Maryland’s Health Initiative hopes to get a law passed in Maryland next year requiring transparency from drug companies about their prices.

Mylan CEO Heather Bresch expressed no plans to lower the price of EpiPens, but the company has announced they’ll be coming out with a generic version.

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