EpiPen's 400 percent price increase has consumers and Congress confused and concerned

U.S. lawmakers are joining concerned parents in demanding to know: what’s up with the sudden increase in the price of an EpiPen?

The pens, which can be a quick way to stop dangerous allergic reactions (especially in kids) with a shot of epinephrine, have recently shot up in price to $600. According to the New York Times, that’s a 400 percent increase since 2007, when the drug company Mylan started making the devices. Plus, the drug expires after one year, meaning an EpiPen two-pack would need to be replaced in relatively short order.

The increase has worried some consumers who don’t want a potentially lifesaving medication to be priced out of reach. Congress chimed in with its own worries Aug. 22 in a later to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, voiced her concerns as a parent, according to the Times.

“Many Americans, including my own daughter, rely on this lifesaving product to treat severe allergic reactions,” she wrote in a separate letter to the FTC.

According to Reuters, Klobuchar asked the FTC to examine whether this “price gouging” by Mylan rose to the level of illegal and “unreasonable restraints of trade to facilitate or protect a price increase.”

And Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, brought up the financial burden brought upon the government with this change, reported the Times.

“It follows that many of the children who are prescribed EpiPens are covered by Medicaid, and therefore, the taxpayers are picking up the tab for this medication,” he said.

Reuters reported that Mylan did not respond to the most recent spate of letter, but had previously pointed out that 80 percent of patients covered by insurance are able to get the drug for free. The statement blamed the price increase on “changes in the healthcare insurance landscape” in which “consumers…are bearing more of the cost.”

According to Forbes, the dose of epinephrine in the injection costs about $1 and that Mylan made about $1.2 billion selling EpiPens in 2015.

The device’s only brand-name competitor, Auvi-Q from Sanofi, was recalled, reported Forbes. There is a generic alternative called Adrenaclick, which can cost as little as $142 from certain stores, according to Consumer Reports. But the device works differently from the EpiPen, which might be more familiar to allergy sufferers and their families. The difference could cause confusion in delivering the drug during time-sensitive, potentially life-threatening situations.