After Mylan drastically raised the price of EpiPen to more than $600, Cigna announced this week that the health insurance company is dropping their coverage of EpiPen while CVS has begun selling a generic version of the drug for approximately one-sixth the price. Although Cigna will no longer cover EpiPen, the insurance company will cover Mylan’s generic version sold at half the price.
“It is positive news for our customers,” Cigna spokeswoman Karen Eldred wrote in a recent statement. “The generic version, available now in pharmacies, has the same drug formulation and device functionality as the branded medication, but at a substantial cost savings.”
After raising the price of EpiPen to $620 last year, Mylan began offering a generic version of the epinephrine auto-injector last month for $300. While dropping coverage for EpiPen due to recent public outrage at pharmaceutical price gouging, Cigna will continue to cover Mylan’s generic version.
In response to the EpiPen controversy, CVS began selling Adrenaclick, a generic version of the epinephrine auto-injector that only costs $109.99 for a two-pack. According to Helena Foulkes, President of CVS Pharmacy, CVS “recognized that there was an urgent need in the marketplace for a less expensive epinephrine auto-injector for patients with life-threatening allergies.”
On Wednesday, the Senate voted on an amendment introduced by Sens. Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar to allow pharmacists, wholesalers, and individuals in the United States to import low-cost medicine from Canada. Although the price of EpiPen is $620 in the U.S., the price in Canada is $290. The amendment was blocked by a vote of 52 to 46.
“The Democratic Party has got to stand up to the greed of the pharmaceutical industry,” Sanders asserted. “It is not acceptable that the five biggest drug companies made $50 billion in profits in 2015 while nearly 1 in 5 Americans cannot afford the medicine that their doctor prescribes.”
While addressing the Senate on Wednesday, Sanders stated, “The power and wealth of the pharmaceutical industry and their 1,300 lobbyists and unlimited funds of money have bought the United States Congress. Let’s be clear about it. Today, Mr. Trump, a guy I don’t quote very often, he said that Pharma gets away with murder. That’s what Trump said. He’s right!”
Despite losing the vote for his amendment this week, Sanders remains optimistic that the Senate will eventually pass legislation preventing pharmaceutical companies from radically increasing the price of lifesaving drugs. On Twitter, Sanders posted a graphic depicting drug prices in the U.S. and Canada.
Sold in the U.S. for $2,626, the depression treatment drug Abilify only costs $436 in Canada. Used to treat Type 2 diabetes, Januvia costs $1,064 in the U.S. while priced at $255 in Canada.
“It’s not a radical idea to import medication from Canada, where they pay a lot less for the exact same drugs,” Sanders wrote. “72% of Americans support it.”