• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

Here's Johnny - Greed vs. lives

The next time Dear Readers take aim at the Mainstream Media and Big Government, they may wish to consider the fate of a friend or loved one who could die from eating a nut or being stung by a bee. By now, most folks have heard of the controversy surrounding the drug company Mylan, which raised the price of their live-saving EpiPen from $100 to $600 since 2007. That's 600 percent - for a device and drug combination that reportedly costs only three or four dollars to make and expires after a year. EpiPens were invented more than 40 years ago, so the research and development costs have long since been paid off. The company is slowly backing down, but I'll bet the cost of an Epipen that Mylan CEO Heather Bresch, paid $19 million in 2015, wouldn't be doing a darn thing had the controversy not been covered by the Mainstream Media. Mylan's most recent face-saving measure was to announce they would offer a generic substitute for $300 - three times the cost of an EpiPen before Mylan acquired the rights to the product. The week before, Bresch and her fellow profiteers said they would increase financial assistance to patients to reduce out-of-pocket costs. "We understand the deep frustration and concerns associated with the cost of the EpiPen to the patient, and have always shared the public's desire to ensure that this important product be accessible to anyone who needs it," Bresch said. Somewhere, George Orwell is smiling. Company officials said patients were noticing the price increase mostly because of the growing number of high-deductible insurance plans. In other words, it's OK to overcharge insurance companies, because lots of folks don't realize they and others will eventually pay for outrageously expensive medical devices and treatments with rising insurance premiums. EpiPens deliver a fast dose of epinephrine to counter anaphylactic shock from allergies or other causes. My sister, who's allergic to bee stings, carries one, or at least, she's supposed to carry one. She's an attorney in Arizona, so she can afford it. How many Americans can't afford to pay $600 or even $300 for an Epipen pack, or must wrestle with the choice of getting their car fixed or carrying a device that could save their life or that of a loved one? We'll never know. What I do know is that what began as a Facebook campaign wouldn't be possible without wide coverage of the controversy by the Mainstream Media that some blame for most of America's ills. The same critics tend to believe in as little regulation as possible by Big Government and are likely to accuse critics of pharmacy CEOs making $19 million annually of engaging in class warfare. I know of no law preventing companies like Mylan from charging as much as the marketplace will bear for their products, many of which were developed with help from taxpayer-funded research. Problem is, with mergers and takeovers abounding, an increasing number of drugs and medical devices are owned by single companies, which can then play a lethal version of Monopoly. Maybe - just maybe - we shouldn't have to rely on a viral campaign, coverage of it by the Mainstream Media and a CEO's shame to address such problems. Journalism, especially the print version of which I'm presently engaged in, is enduring tough times. Folks have become accustomed to getting their news or information or whatever you want to call it via the Internet and, mostly, free of charge. This leaves people whose mission is to seek and tell the truth unemployed, underpaid, or leaving for the wonderful world of public relations for companies like Mylan. I'll guarantee you this: the likes of Bresch and politicians of all stripes and sizes are getting away with a lot more these days because there are fewer experienced journalists around to catch 'em. And this: if Congress and the White House don't do something about corporations run by people who value profits more than lives, who will? I'm aware that drug companies use some of their profits to invest in research to develop new drugs and devices. I'm also aware that a good chunk of Bresch's $19 million take-home last year was funded by profits made by jacking up the cost of EpiPens. I don't have any allergies, but if I had an EpiPen right now, I'd consider using it, because I feel like I'm covered in hives.

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