Today, a life threatening allergic reaction sends someone to the emergency room once every three minutes. It’s costing our economy $25 billion dollars a year—in drug costs, lost productivity, special dietary needs and more.
And it’s costing us over $600 every time we purchase an EpiPen.
That last statistic is what launched the food allergy world into action. Mylan jacked up the price of EpiPens so many times in eight years that families could no longer afford them. So parents made a lot of noise, and in August 2016, we launched #epigate which brought attention to the price-gouging. Mylan’s share price fell 24%.
But even before that started, there was another mom of four, witnessing all of this. She held a huge role, not as an advocate, but as the head of CVS Pharmacy. Like me and millions of others, her youngest suffers from life-threatening allergies. And like all of us, she saw an opportunity to do better.
As the head of CVS Pharmacy, Helena Foulkes has done an incredible job leading CVS Pharmacy, as first seen in the company’s move to remove tobacco products from their stores. She also led her company’s effort to work with Impax, the maker of the generic version of epinephrine, Adrenaclick, to bring an epinephrine product to market at a price point that families can afford.
When the #epigate conversations started in the summer of 2016, Adrenaclick cost about $200. Still high and without a robust supply chain, it was not the right fit. Consumers and pharmacies shared concerns that if demand hit, there were questions about whether or not the the company making Adrenaclick would be able to provide the life-saving devices to the millions who need them.
Through the second half of last year, CVS worked with Impax to ensure that it could. And yesterday, CVS announced that they would carry the Adrenaclick at $109.99—the same price that an EpiPen cost over 8 years ago. A full 1/6 of the price of an EpiPen today.
The headlines took over the food allergy world. They had been heard not only by one of the largest pharmacy chains, but they had also been heard by a mother of four inside of the company who personally understands how food allergies impact millions of lives. And she demonstrated remarkable leadership.
Food allergies don’t care where we work or who we voted for. They don’t discriminate in the lives that they take, and it is on all of us who are part of this to not only find a solution but also to do everything we can to protect the millions of Americans now dealing with this condition.
Adrenaclick is a different device. Education will be required to teach consumers about it, and training is always required with any life-saving epinephrine device. Is it perfect? No, but none of them are yet. And the more choices that we have on the market, the better the devices will become, and the more lives we can save.
Think back to that first cell phone? Imagine if we’d stopped there. Competition is in the best interest of consumers. Competition yields the best product.
When I spoke with CVS today, they said, “We believe in giving consumers informed choice.” That is something that I have said countless times myself in my work in the food industry.
As Americans, our democracy is built on informed choice – from what we choose in the pharmacy, to what we choose in the grocery store, to what clothes or cars we buy.
It’s no surprise that this first move comes from CVS. If you remember, they were the first to remove tobacco products from their stores. Why? Their mission is to help people on their path to better health.
They will be helping millions of Americans with food allergies, by offering a device at a price point that many can afford.
Mylan’s monopoly has put too many lives at risk. They’ve priced consumers out of securing the devices needed to protect their loved ones. CVS stepped in to help.
Americans deserve an informed choice, a basket of products from which to choose when it comes to protecting their loved ones with food allergies.
Monopolies only benefit the monopolist.
As CVS moves to provide more options and choice, it opens up the category to other players, too. And with Auvi-Q coming back on the market in 2017, that can’t happen soon enough.
Thank you, CVS, for opening the door to other products. May the best auto-injector win.