EpiPen prices hurting local families, schools

Posted at 11:51 AM, Aug 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-26 11:51:15-04

"Anywhere from $1,200 to $1,500," says East Lansing mom Theresa Anderson.

That's what she expects to pay for two sets of EpiPen, when the current supply for her 11-year-old son Ben expires. With insurance, that's the out-of-pocket cost.

Ben has a severe allergy to peanuts, dairy and eggs. For over a decade, the East Lansing mom has been buying EpiPen.

"I really noticed the increase three years ago," she says.

They are just one of the families affected by the soaring costs of EpiPen.

It isn't just families feeling the pressure, this past year, Capital Area Community Services' Early Head Start preschool in Lansing spent around $27,000 to buy two sets of EpiPen for the 27 students that need them.

"The last one we purchased I have $533.20 and we need two of them," says Head Start's Health Programs Manager Teresa Spitzer.

The preschool likes to have an EpiPen for students in the classroom and on the bus.

The program serves over 1,700 underprivileged kids age 0 to 5 across Ingham, Eaton, Clinton and Shiawassee Counties.

"It would be unsafe to have a child in our care that is supposed to have an EpiPen and we don't have one," says Gail Hagbom, R.D., the Nutrition Coordinator for Head Start.

Head Start gets money from a federal government grant. Employees say if the price of EpiPen wasn't so high, they could spend some of that money elsewhere, like on an additional staff member.

The costs are high, but when it comes to her son's life, Theresa Anderson says she won't go without an EpiPen.

"We'd forego something else before we wouldn't have medication for him," she says.

A lot of families on Medicaid can get coverage for at least one pen, but for safety, the preschool and parents like to have multiple pens.

Buying an EpiPen is almost a yearly expense. The life-saving drug typically expires between a year and 18 months.

The maker of EpiPen, Mylan, is now offering an instant savings card worth $300.

Its CEO, who saw her salary jump to nearly $19 million, even as the price for the EpiPen spiked, is now speaking out, trying to explain the hefty price increase for the medical device.

"As a mother I can assure you the last thing we would ever want is no one to have their EpiPen due to price," says Mylan CEO Heather Bresch.

She goes on to say that, "My frustration is there's a list price of $608. There is a system. I laid out that there are four or five hands that the product touches and companies that it goes through before it ever gets to that patient at the counter."

She says she is doing everything she can to help families pay for the EpiPen.

In addition to the savings card, Mylan is also doubling the eligibility for its patient financial assistant program, which would eliminate out of pocket costs for uninsured and under-insured patients.