EpiPens and Other Ways Companies Have Profited From Your Pain

By Paul Michael on 22 September 2016 1 comment

The EpiPen literally saves lives. So naturally, the makers of the lifesaving product decided to cash in on that, raising the cost from $100 for a package of two, to over $600! (And that's with a coupon, by the way).

The reason behind the dramatic increase is awful. According to Tech Times, five top Mylan NV executives had to hit some pretty incredible sales figures to achieve their combined $82 million in bonuses. Knowing the EpiPen is essential to many people, they simply jacked the price up and hit their goals. But, as you'll soon discover, this isn't the first time companies like Mylan NV have stuck it to people in need of medications.

Daraprim, One Pill — $13.50 to $750

If the drug doesn't sound familiar, the awful person behind its price hike will. His name is Martin Shkreli, often described in news stories and social media outlets as a man with a face you'd love to slap. His company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, acquired Daraprim in 2015 for $55 million. The drug is used to fight AIDS, malaria, and is also an antiparasitic. On September 17th, 2015, it was reported that the price of the drug had spiked from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill, an increase of 5,456%!

Shkreli defended the massive increase, saying "If there was a company that was selling an Aston Martin at the price of a bicycle, and we buy that company and we ask to charge Toyota prices, I don't think that that should be a crime." It was poetic justice to see Shkreli in court this year.

Cycloserine, 30 Capsules — $500 to $10,800

Used to treat drug-resistant tuberculosis, Cycloserine was already costly at $500 for 30 capsules. So when Rodelis acquired the drug and raised the price in September 2015, overnight, to $10,800 for the same number of pills, there was outrage. In fact, so much was said about it that biotechnology stocks suffered losses, with investors worried about the backlash. Rodelis caved to pressure and gave the drug back to its previous owners, a nonprofit organization affiliated with Purdue University. However, the drug did not go back to its regular price. The cost was doubled from $500 to $1,050 for 30 capsules.

Isuprel, One Vial — $180 to $1,472

A drug used to treat abnormal heart rhythms is, as you can imagine, vital to many people in the U.S. and around the world. Valeant Pharmaceuticals International didn't see that as a good enough reason to keep the drug at its already steep price, and jacked the cost up by 718% in February last year. Valeant were called before Congress to explain their actions, and agreed to set up discounts of as much as 40% on the drug. As of May 11th, many heart hospitals were still waiting for those discounts to appear.

Nitropress, One Vial — $215 to $881

The same company responsible for the Isuprel price hike were also behind the massive cost increase of Nitropress last year, a drug used to keep blood pressure low during heart surgeries. However, it wasn't quite as steep as the Isuprel rise, costing hospitals, and therefore patients, 312% more. The then CEO of Valeant, J. Michael Pearson (who has a net worth of $175 million) issued a statement saying the price increases were mistakes, saying "The company was too aggressive — and I, as its leader, was too aggressive — in pursuing price increases on certain drugs." That probably comes as little comfort to the people who receive their hospital bills.

Vimovo, One Tablet — $1.88 to $23.86

There are over 100 types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. If you are diagnosed with it, you will be suffering from joint pain that can be crippling and debilitating. So, a drug that helps ease this pain should not be just as painful to buy.

Horizon Pharma acquired the rights to the drug Vimovo, which helps to fight arthritis, in 2013. It then hiked the price by 597%, taking one tablet from $1.88 to $23.86. Considering a vast number of people suffering from this condition are in retirement and on a fixed income, this is a disgrace. But the company hiked the price again recently, with a pack of 60 tablets now costing over $2,000 (with a coupon). Ironically, the drug is simply a mixture of two very cheap drugs, esomeprazole and naproxen. Many doctors are encouraged (that means kickbacks) by big pharma companies to write "prescriptions made easy" for these combination drugs. Always ask your doctor if there is a cheaper alternative that works just as well.

Dutoprol, One Pill — $0.52 to $5.26

This drug is used to treat high blood pressure, and up until 2013, the price was fairly reasonable — around $15 for a bottle of 30 pills. Clearly, the company the manufactures Dutoprol, Covis Pharma, was not happy with a reasonable price. So, they hiked the price by 1,013% to $5.26 per pill, or $157.80 for a bottle of 30 pills.

Sprix Nasal Spray, One Bottle — $32.07 to $183.97

If you have severe nasal pain, you will require a good pain reliever. Sprix is the only nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug (NSAID) on the market, and is preferred by people who do not want to use opioids or controlled substances. That preference will now cost a lot more. In February of 2015, Egalet Corp raised the price of one bottle from $32.07 to $183.97, an increase of 574%. And as the spray is often sold in packs of five, you will be paying over $900 for that much-needed pain relief.

Tasmar, One Tablet — $15.70 to $105.98

Perhaps the most famous person you'll know of that may need Tasmar is Michael J. Fox. It's a drug used to treat the effects of Parkinson's disease. And once again, Valeant Pharmaceuticals is behind the massive price hike. In April last year, the company decided to raise the price of one tablet from $15.70 to $105.98, an increase of 675%. While a movie star may not have issues paying that bill, most people will get serious sticker shock when they have to pay over $6,300 for their bottle of 60 tablets.

Edecrin, One Vial — $470 to $4,600

Used in the treatment of edema and heart failure, Edecrin is a diuretic that helps your body get rid of excess salt and water. When Valeant acquired the rights to this drug, it started raising prices. Not once. Not twice. Not three times. The price has been increased an astonishing nine times since 2014, and is now $4,600 per vial.

Targretin Gel, One Tube — $1,687 to $30,320

Those are not typos. You did read that correctly. There is clearly something going wrong somewhere when a company can charge more than the price of a Dodge Charger for a tube of topical gel. And, of course, it's used to address the symptoms of a form of cancer, which is one of the most expensive diseases to treat. Once again, those wonderful people at Valeant are behind the rise, and at over $1,600 a tube to begin with, it was hardly in desperate need of a price hike. But, they did it, making the small tube of gel 18 times more expensive after they bought the rights to the drug in 2013.

Valeant has defended the rise, saying full retail prices "rarely represent the prices that patients and insurers are paying or what the pharmaceutical company receives." If you don't have good insurance, or any insurance, you likely won't have the money needed for this drug. Incidentally, at the same time, Valeant raised the price of Carac cream, another topical treatment dealing with skin cancer, from $159 to $2,705. The message this company is sending is clear…you get sick, we get rich.

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Guest's picture
Dev

Reprehensible