Advocacy groups absent from protests over EpiPen profiteering

It may be one of the biggest ever cases of Big Pharma greed — and it looks like we haven’t been told half the story.

By now you’ve heard the shameful news of how drug maker Mylan Pharmaceuticals increased the price of life-saving EpiPen injections by more than 500 percent. Families and even ambulance services are having trouble affording the medicine.

Countless letters and petitions with hundreds of thousands of signatures have been sent by outraged Americans to both Mylan and Congress.

But a group of trade associations that are supposed to be looking out for people with allergies has been strangely silent.

Now new questions are being raised about whether Mylan bought that silence — and whether the EpiPen price gouging could have been stopped before it got out of hand.

No outrage from insiders

Before Mylan entered the picture around 12 years ago, EpiPens were around $50 each. The device now costs six times that much, with a twin pack going for $600.

And it’s not like Mylan even came up with the EpiPen idea in the first place. That honor goes to an obscure former NASA engineer named Sheldon Kaplan who died without sharing in — or even asking for — any of the billions Mylan has made on it.

But Mylan quietly kept raising the price of EpiPens (which are supposed to be replaced every year), so high that they even became too expensive for first responders to stock in ambulances.

That seemed to be the final straw that whipped up public outrage, resulting in major media coverage and a congressional inquiry.

But as The New York Times recently reported, three patient advocacy groups, which “typically are vocal on all issues related to food allergies” were largely mum.

Now we may know why.

It turns out, according to the Times, that Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) and Allergy & Asthma Network are all listed as “allies” by Mylan. And Mylan reportedly has provided them with more than $10 million for “educational efforts,” such as sponsorships and grants.

It looks like money doesn’t just talk — it may keep people from talking, too.

Now, as you might expect, these groups claim to have been “working behind the scenes” with the company to lower families’ costs of EpiPens.

And even if you believe that’s true, it doesn’t look like those talks were very forceful or productive — because the price of EpiPens kept skyrocketing anyway.

Fortunately, lots of angry citizens started taking matters into their own hands. This week, for example, a coalition of advocacy groups will be delivering a petition to Mylan CEO Heather Bresch signed by over half a million Americans.

To toss out a PR bone, Mylan just announced that it’s going to produce a generic version of its own brand-name product and slash the price in half to $300.

But that’s the biggest bunch of nonsense I’ve ever heard. Mylan could cut the price of EpiPens tomorrow if it wanted to.

In Canada, two pens now sell for $200 — and in France it’s even half that price!

“Mylan executives should be ashamed of themselves,” says consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, adding that this issue won’t go away until the price of this lifesaving treatment becomes affordable to all.

Whether or not anyone in your family relies on an EpiPen, it’s vital to keep the momentum on this going. Please contact your Senators today and let them know exactly how you feel about this kind of profiteering.

Sources:
“How parents harnessed the power of social media to challenge EpiPen prices” Tara Parker-Pope, August 25, 2016, The New York Times, well.blogs.nytimes.com