By Timothy Holbrook
Professor of Law, Emory University
The rising price for EpiPens, a drug delivery system that is crucial for persons experiencing potentially life-threatening allergic reactions, has resulted in outrage.
The price increase, from about US$94 for a two-pack of injectable epinephrine to more than $600 in just nine years, has members of Congress calling for investigations in how Mylan, the drug’s manufacturer, can justify this increase.
In the last year alone, the price has climbed by $200.
This is hardly the first example of sharp price increases. Turing Pharmaceuticals, and its then-chief executive Martin Shkreli, raised the price of the drug Daraprim, which treats a life-threatening parasitic infection, from $13.50 to $750 per tablet.
The drug, 62 years old at the time, was not covered by a patent and was a key antibiotic used in treating persons with HIV/AIDS. The price hike put patients’ health at risk, leading to a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars for some. Shrekli, unsurprisingly, was vilified (and, for unrelated reasons, ultimately indicted on fraud).
While this conduct was outrageous, it wasn’t illegal. Any pharmaceutical company is free to set the price for its drug at any level the market will bear that maximizes their profits. Other drugs whose prices have risen include treatments for hepatitis C, cancer and high cholesterol. So, while the price hike was not the best public relations move, it is legal. [Read more…]