Last month, a major court decision in Kansas has offered an opportunity for EpiPen consumers. US District Judge Daniel Crabtree decided to allow a lawsuit over EpiPen price hikes brought about by pharmaceutical giants Mylan NV and Pfizer.
According to KCUR.com–the National Public Radio affiliate in Kansas–Mylan NV gained the right to distribute the EpiPen in 2007, utilizing Pfizer as an exclusive supplier. Since then, EpiPen prices have shot up from around $100 in 2007 to an all-time high of around $600 in 2016. Meanwhile, KUCR.com reports that the cost of the EpiPen’s dose of epinephrine has remained at about $1.
Among the many allegations brought against the companies, Mylan is accused of providing free or discounted EpiPens to schools that agreed to sign exclusive contracts. As Snacksafely.com reports, they also offered rebates and discounts to pharmacy benefits managers and insurers in return for their pledge not to reimburse competing products.
The lawsuit also claims that Mylan and Pfizer created patents for minor changes to the design of the EpiPen to delay competing products from entering the market, (being the product’s only manufacturers and distributors at the time) thus maintaining their monopoly on the product.
What Does this Lawsuit Mean for Consumers?
Judge Crabtree ruled that numerous lawsuits against the pharmaceutical giants may proceed as class-action lawsuits under a federal racketeering statue and gives customers the opportunity to sue for damages under state antitrust laws.
In a nutshell, this means that potentially millions of EpiPen customers who purchased or were reimbursed for EpiPens after August 24th, 2011 may be able to sue for damages, holding big pharma accountable for illegally raising the prices of the lifesaving drug. Crabtree’s ruling also allows plaintiffs to potentially recover triple damages.
When Should You Administer an EpiPen?
There is a bit of confusion surrounding when a person should administer an EpiPen–especially when giving it to a child.
The short answer is you should administer an EpiPen anytime you suspect a person is at risk for anaphylaxis. Some people believe you should administer antihistamines or an albuterol inhaler before using an EpiPen, but these only treat minor allergy symptoms such as itching or hives. They shouldn’t be used as a life-saving treatment.
For more information, check out this article from snacksafely.com that describes an AAP report on EpiPen usage. You can also read more about properly using an EpiPen in our past blog post, How do I Use an EpiPen?