In recent weeks, much concern has been raised about the EpiPen, an epinephrine auto injector produced by the pharmaceutical company, Mylan. Epinephrine is an inexpensive means of counteracting potentially life-threatening allergic reactions. If administered quickly, epinephrine saves lives. However, despite the low cost of epinephrine, the EpiPen has skyrocketed in price, exceeding $300 per pen. This financial burden is unacceptable and completely avoidable when considering the cost of production and the lives that could be saved.
In all this confusion, many are blaming capitalism, and are frustrated with the government for not doing enough to regulate the price of these pharmaceuticals. Yet, the problem could not be further from this claim. It is burdensome government regulation that has led us to this point, not capitalism itself.
Mylan currently holds a patent on the EpiPen, protecting it from competitors or generics entering the market with similar designs. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration forces competitors to jump through a number of hoops before taking their product to market. The process for getting a pharmaceutical product approved by the FDA can take years, and the guidelines for submitting applications to do so are too vague. This is not even including the backlog of over 4,000 generic drug applications awaiting FDA approval, placing an even larger hurdle in the way of alternatives.
This regulatory burden has ultimately created a de facto monopoly for Mylan, which allows them to raise prices to unbearable levels, restricting access to the EpiPen for low-income individuals. The enemy here is crony capitalism and monopolization, not the free market. In fact, the free market is the solution. By allowing new generics to compete, many of which have already been approved in other countries, prices can return to reasonable levels by way of the forces of the market.
Recently, there has been talk of a ballot issue coming to Ohio next year that would seek to implement price controls on prescription drugs purchased through the State of Ohio. However, we must understand and remember that these price controls do not truly address the problem, and can lead to unintended economic consequences. It is unacceptable that lifesaving drugs have been made so unaffordable. We, as Ohioans, must place blame where it is due and stop allowing big government to protect monopolies in the drug market.
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The writer represents the 84th District in the Ohio House of Representatives.