DOUGLASVILLE, Ga. - Update: Mylan Labs, the maker of the EpiPen and EpipenJr allergy rescue medication announced Thursday it will increase its drug savings program offer, allowing commercially-insured consumers to receive up to $300 off a two pack of the devices. This comes after a major uproar over a nearly 400% hike in the cost of the lifesaving allergy drug.
MacColeman is smoking mad at the company that makes her 4-year old son Liam's EpiPens.
"I can't believe that they're putting parents over a barrel like this," she says.
Liam has severe food allergies to everything from eggs to peanuts. So everywhere he goes, his allergist wants the Douglasville preschooler to carry one of these automatic epinephrine injectors that can stop a life-threatening allergic reaction with him.
"I keep one at home, I keep one in my purse and I keep one at the daycare,” says his mom
The MacColemans bought their first EpiPen two-pack, which is how they're sold, in 2014.
"It was $150. Later on it was, like, $350,” she says. “And we thought why is this now $350?”
That was nothing. Recently, Ashby MacColeman went back for another two-pack, after Liam’s expired.
"The pharamicist said, 'Do you have insurance?' And I'm like, 'What kind of question is that? Yes, I have insurance!'” she says. “And he said, 'That will be $648.'"
She took the prescription to a second pharmacy, thinking there must be a mistake.
"Same thing,” she says. “$600."
Turns out Mylan Labs, the American company that acquired the decades-old allergy injector in 2007, has hiked the price about 400% since then, from less than $100 for a two-pack 7 years ago to more than $600 today.
"I fumed and ranted and panicked and tried to figure out what my options were,” says Ashby MacColeman.”
The problem is they're really aren't any other FDA-approved options, says David Howard of Emory's Rollins School of Public Health.
"There is only one company that makes this device, the EpiPen,” Howard says. “And they've really jacked up the price."
Exacerbating the sticker shock, Howard says, is the fact many Americans like Liam's family have switched to high-deductible plans. Forcing them to pay the full price of their medication until they meet their yearly deductibles.
"So with the price of the drug going up and consumers expected to pay more out-of-pocket, patients are feeling more financial pain,” Howard says.
Mylan defends its pricing, saying the company offers a "My EpiPen Savings Card" that saves commercially-insured consumers $100 off each two-pack.
On its website, the company says nearly 80% of insured consumers who used the card paid in 2015 paid nothing for it.
In that same statement, Mylan says the real issue is a national trend toward higher deductibles that forces consumers to bear more of the cost of their care.
But Ashby MacColeman believes the price-hike is about greed.
"That they decided to repeated keep jacking up the price, knowing that parents have to have this? That people of all ages have to have this to survive? And that they were okay with that? Let's just keep raising the price because where else are they going to go? It's unconscionable,” she says.
The couple recently appealed to their health insurance provider for help. The company referred them to a mail-based pharmacy. They were able to purchase a pack of 2 EpiPen auto-injectors for $175. They’re still waiting for them to arrive in the mail.