A Father's Letter To Mylan's CEO About The EpiPen, Compassion, And Character

by Andrew B. Palumbo
Originally Published: 
Andrew Palumbo

Dear Heather,

You got greedy. Really greedy.

Mylan’s $600 EpiPen and its newly proposed $300 generic auto-injector both price a life-saving medication out of reach for many hardworking American families. The EpiPen costs only a few dollars to make, yet you have increased its price by $500 in less than a decade. You claimed on Monday that you will soon offer a generic at “half” of the price.

Allergy families know the truth. You are going to sell us a generic version of the EpiPen — the same product that was on the market in 2007 for $100 ― at a 300% markup.

Did you think that we would thank you for this? Or did you simply think we’d be confused and wouldn’t notice?

The fact that you are cutting the price in half and it’s still three times more expensive than it was less than a decade ago underscores just how unrelenting your greed has been during this time.

Allergy families can’t budget and save up as if we are buying a car. We will always need this life-saving medication. It expires every year, and the struggle for many families to afford new EpiPens begins anew. Most families can’t get by with a single EpiPen pack, either. Our family requires three packs and our daughter isn’t even in day care or school yet. I know several families who require five or six EpiPen packs.

The customers who are able to pay your extortionate prices are only willing to pay because we must be willing. If we don’t make the sacrifices to pay for this product, our loved ones could die.

There is no comparable competitor on the market. You know this, and we know this. So you hike up the price, and we pay. You increase it a few months later, and yet again, we pay. And on and on it goes.

You claim that lowering the price of EpiPens would be a hardship for Mylan, yet your salary has increased over 670% since you first acquired the product nine years ago. With an annual salary of $19 million, it seems that there is no level of compensation great enough to satiate your desire to acquire more wealth.

You rake in millions for yourself, and hopefully, we buy ourselves another year of life-saving medicine, or maybe just enough medicine to get us through the next anaphylactic attack.

Your refusal to cut the price of EpiPens makes it clear that you value Mylan’s profits and your own personal enrichment more than the life of my daughter and the millions of American families who require multiple EpiPens to keep our loved ones safe.

I want you to consider a few things, Heather:

Every expensive meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant that you treat your family to is paid for by the thousands of families who go hungry so their child can have an EpiPen.

Every flashy new car, SUV, and boat that you buy yourself is money that would have gone to pay car loans for thousands of needy families. Instead, they bought their daughter an EpiPen and their only family car has been repossessed as a result.

Every new vacation home you buy is paid for by thousands of families who have skipped mortgage payments to pay for EpiPen packs for the multiple children in their families with food allergies.

There are thousands of food allergy families who aren’t supporting your exorbitant salary – who either go without EpiPens or are relying on expired EpiPens – because they cannot afford this life-saving medication.

You can go on television and act as if you care about EpiPen access issues. You can pretend to be unaware of the impact that your price gouging strategies has had on allergy families over the past nine years. You can offer coupons, new unaffordable products, and all the excuses you can muster. You can do all of this while claiming to understand severe allergies and be an advocate for allergy sufferers.

There is one thing that you can’t do. You can’t buy your way into our community by sponsoring a couple of our organizations. The money that you provide to some of the causes our community cares about is not actual support. In fact, it’s not even your money. It’s just a small fraction of the proceeds that you have essentially robbed from hardworking families.

Your philanthropy doesn’t make you compassionate, Heather. It makes you a hypocrite. You will never be a member of our community because you don’t care about my daughter’s life or the lives of millions of children and adults like her. You are not one of us. You have proven that we can never trust you.

You’ll never understand the strength and compassion of the allergy community. I’ve seen many people commenting online that they wish you or your children would develop a life-threatening allergy. While this has been stated by some, I don’t know of a single parent of a child with allergies who would ever wish an allergy or anaphylaxis on you or anyone else.

Our community members would never wish this on you because we have seen the horrors of anaphylaxis firsthand in our loved ones.

We’ve noticed the hives as they begin to cover their bodies.

We’ve held them as them vomit and struggle to breathe.

We’ve seen the fear in their eyes as their blood pressure drops.

We’ve watched in horror as our loved ones turn blue.

We’ve clutched our overpriced EpiPens in shaking hands and plunged them in into our children’s legs.

And we’ve waited, while on the phone with 911, hoping that the epinephrine will work and that we’ve acted fast enough to save our children’s lives.

We didn’t ask for this life. EpiPens are not a luxury for us. They are the difference between life and death.

There’s another thing that I know about this community. If you were having an anaphylactic attack and one of us happened to be nearby, not a single one of us would hesitate to grab our obscenely overpriced EpiPens and administer a life-saving dose to the very person who has put this medicine out of reach for many of our fellow community members. This is the character of the community that you have exploited for years, Heather.

I am proud that my daughters will both be members of this community. They will reap the benefits of associating with kind and caring human beings who value human life.

You have done me one great favor, Heather. Your actions will provide my daughters an example of how not to live their lives.

They will be compassionate human beings.

They will grow up to be strong intelligent women.

They will look out for others and be empathetic in all that they do.

They will never choose personal enrichment over saving the lives of others.

They will be positive role models who their own children can be proud of.

In short, they will be nothing like you, Heather Bresch.

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