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The EpiPen is an auto-injector that delivers epinephrine, more commonly known as adrenaline, a hormone that helps to relax muscles.  It can open the airways, and reduce swelling during a severe allergic reaction.  EpiPens save lives when severe allergic reactions occur.

The price of the EpiPen has gone up sixfold in recent years.  It can cost as much as $700 for a pack of two auto-injectors before insurance.  Parents of children with food allergies are up in arms, and the increase has drawn the ire of some federal lawmakers.  The steep increase in the price of the EpiPen has sparked outrage among consumers and lawmakers who worry that parents won’t be able to afford the pens for children heading back to school. Doctors advise allergic patients to carry two EpiPens with them at all times.  Most parents buy multiple EpiPens for home, in the car and school and may replace them annually, depending on the expiration date.

The pharmaceutical company Mylan, which bought the EpiPen from Merck in 2007, has declined to comment on the price hike, issuing a statement pointing the finger at high-deductible health plans that require consumers to pay much more out of pocket for many drugs.

U.S. Senators are scrutinizing the rising price of EpiPens following a public outcry over the 400 percent price hike since 2008.  Recently, Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Heather Bresch, chief executive officer of Mylan in which he stated that he “was concerned that the substantial price increase could limit access to a much-needed medication” and requested additional information on the price increases.  Separately, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal urged Mylan to reduce the price of EpiPens.  A petition to Congress protesting the price increase called “Stop the EpiPen Price Gouging” has emerged on social media.  It has collected more than 48,000 signatures.

Tonya Winders, president of the Allergy & Asthma Network, said her group is planning to work with other advocacy organizations to make the EpiPen a more universally-covered expense through a federal preventative services task force.  She said the families most affected by the price hike are those who don’t have insurance or those with high-deductible health plans.  Ms. Winders said “We believe that Mylan should design a program specifically for those in that high-deductible rate.”

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