When Martin Shrkeli raised the price of his company’s unique AIDS medicine by 5000% the protest was immediate and loud. Although the patient base for the medicine was small (intended for ttreating oxoplasmosis in patients with cancer or HIV ) people understood that there was no other suitable substitute. And the medicine had gone off patent protection which is when you generally have generic versions at much cheaper prices. All in all, people were able to easily see that this was a terrible difficult thing for patients to deal with.
Imagine you have a job where you must have use of a car. Imagine that gas prices suddenly increase to five times the cost. Imagine joining in online conversations complaining about this and wondering aloud if the government can do something to regulate the industry, if anything can be done about it.
Now imagine that those conversations fill with people pointing out that a bicycle is a perfectly valid form of low-cost transport. And that once they have made that statement they will hear no counter. They will not listen to your explanations of how you need substantial space to transport goods, or that you need to travel hundreds of kilometres in a day. No matter what you say they will sneer, “bicycles.”
And that is the conversation about Epi-pens with all the people blithely announcing how cheap syringes and adrenaline are. Ta dah! They have solved the problem. Anyone still complaining about the cost of Epi-pens just wants to whine and complain.
And that is how we know those people don’t actually have need of an Epi-pen or its like…that is how we know that they probably don’t have anyone in their immediate circle who has need of one. Or that they don’t use insulin so they’re unaware of the other story about unexpected increases in the price of medicine. Or that they have no need of any other medicines with incredibly high prices compared to other countries.
Yet, oddly, now we see a similar situation with Epi-pens and there is a very strong counterreaction already in place. Epi-pens are an efficient substitutes for syringes and adrenalin, which are much lower cost. But there is a reason why Epi-pens were developed and why they (and a few alternate versions) have become so ubiquitous: they are designed to be used by non-medical personnel, and by people with no training whatsoever. Although people can obviously be trained to use syringes (insulin users, for example), that has been in cases where a person will be using the syringe on a regular basis. Most people with an an extreme anaphylactic allergy reaction can go their entire lives without ever needing the adrenaline. The Epi-pen is an preventative for an extreme emergency. Many other patients may only need to use adrenaline once or twice in their lives. Any training that a person received can be quickly forgot over the years, particularly in the stress of an emergency life-threatening situation. Rather than risk a patient unable to administer their own, or that there is no one around able to deal with it quickly and efficiently, Epi-pens were designed to be opened and jabbed into a thigh with next to no thought or need to read labels, checking of amounts, checking that there is no air in the syringe, thought for where to jab, etc.
It is a not uncommon reaction on the internet for some to offer their advice on a solution to whatever discussion is in place. However, it is not helpful when it is by someone who does not understand the issue. And their insistence that they have found the solution so the conversation is over is not at all useful. If you do not wish to join the conversation about the problem of the incredible increase in the cost of US drugs (and some in Canada, if not to the same level), then walk away… We promise not to treat you with the same contempt when you are someday personally affected by this problem and suddenly understand its importance.