By: Hannah Heitz
Through a wide-reaching public media campaign the drug company Mylan turned Epipen into a household name, and an expectation. Epipen consistently targeted the parents of children with life-threatening allergies; the company lobbied congress for mandates that require Epipens to be as commonplace as defibrillators, created television ads, and even partnered with Walt Disney theme parks and cruise lines. For parents of young children, there is often a fear of unknown allergies, and in 2010 the FDA changed its recommendation to suggest even children who are considered potentially at-risk for an anaphylactic reaction have access to an Epipen. Around the same time, the FDA determined that prescriptions for severe allergies should include two doses of epinephrine, or two Epipens.
Recently, social media has exploded with frustration—using #EpiGate to share personal stories, receipts of exorbitant Epipen payments and petitions. What makes the anger towards Epipen different from previous drugs is that fact that some of the largest patient advocacy groups for those with allergies–Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) and Allergy & Asthma Network–are not joining in the fight against Mylan. Mylan has worked closely with these groups and advocated for changes that improve the lives of those with allergies, and increasing Epipen availability in school nationwide brought the company immense profit as well as increased awareness of allergies and saved lives. According to Mylan, the company has spent more than $10 million on allergy education. At the same time, salaries of Mylan leadership have been increasing; CEO Heather Bresch’s salary increased from $2.5 million in 2007 to $18.9 million in 2015. Despite the education and campaigning, Mylan’s numbers do not add up.