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Update to EpiPen Cost Controversy

No sooner than the CEO of the maker of the EpiPen allergy medication aggressively defends the price of the drug than the company announces that it will have available in just a few weeks a generic version of the drug at half the price.

This sudden turnaround raised many to question how this could be accomplished in such a record time given that the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) generally works in years in approving drugs. A law professor at Washington University in St. Louis who follows pharmaceutical actions questioned whether the company is just changing the labels on the branded drug and calling it generic to save itself from the public relations debacle.

Professor Rachel Sachs wrote on the Harvard blog that although public shaming is an effective way to get a giant pharmaceutical’s attention, it still doesn’t solve the problem. “My real concern here is that we seemingly lack the political stomach to do anything about the set of high drug prices that are problematic…” she wrote in the Harvard blog.

Professor Sachs also raises some other grave concerns: how can pharmacists learn how to create the generic drug in so short a time? Is further training necessary? Did the maker of the drug, Mylan, merely take this step so it doesn’t lose its market share to other drug makers who may be able to provide it more cheaply?

Professor Sachs suggests a greater price/cost transparency in the pharmaceutical business, which ultimately may lead to price controls. Whatever ensures the health and safety of the public is what is necessary and perhaps the controversy over the EpiPen may be the launching pad for a greater public awareness, discussion and political action on this front.