“Under Fire, Mylan to Offer Generic EpiPen for 50% Less,” was USA Today‘s headline (8/29/16).
That depends on when you start the clock.
The drug-maker announced that it would be selling an unbranded version of the lifesaving anti-allergy device for $300 for a two-pack. That’s actually a little more than a 50 percent reduction from the current list price; a two-pack of EpiPens generally sells for $608.
But that’s the recently jacked-up price that sparked the outrage that forced Mylan to offer a generic alternative. A year ago, an EpiPen set was going for $461. That would make the $300 price a 35 percent reduction, not 50 percent.
Even that makes the generic price sound like more of a bargain than it is. As recently as July 2013, you could buy two for $264—making the new generic price a 14 percent increase.
And if you go back to 2007, when Mylan acquired the rights to the EpiPen brand, the list price then for two devices was $94. That’s $109 in 2016 dollars—so, on that basis, Mylan’s generic EpiPen is actually a 175 percent price hike.
You don’t need time travel to make the generic EpiPen a bad deal, though; you just need to travel across the border into Canada, where a single pen retails for about $120 in Canadian money, which is about $92 in US currency. In France, where the device is made by a company Mylan recently bought, a twin-pack sells for about $85—or 28 percent of Mylan’s new “discount” price.
Raising prices exorbitantly so that you can present a slightly less extortionate price as a “sale” is a time-honored marketing tradition. USA Today is under no obligation to feature the scam in a headline, however.