EpiPen: How Government Has Rendered Society Helpless

EpiPens are almost ubiquitous. You see them in movies; your friends carry them; all schools are required to have them. They are life-savers.

They were developed 40 years ago by a former NASA engineer, whose primary design went to the government. The Pentagon used it before the commercial product came to market. For under $100, a two-pack of EpiPens should be in every severe allergy sufferer’s kit.

Except they’re not two for $100. Mylan Pharmaceuticals cornered the patent on the device in 2007. Their former chief lobbyist, Heather Bresch, the daughter of West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin, is now the company’s CEO. She got the federal government to require all schools to have EpiPens in stock–a bill passed and signed by President Obama in 2013.

And she’s been jacking up the profits (and the price) for them ever since. Now they cost $608. If you have health insurance (which everyone is required to buy under Obamacare), you might have them covered and get them for under $100 out of pocket. Otherwise, it’s on you.

This, like the prior scandal involving Martin Shkreli, who made a similar play with HIV drugs, is squarely the fault of the federal government.

Liberals would add more regulations, or be like Europe and other countries which decree prices on medical products and drugs, or have the government pay directly. And that might be the only option left to us, sadly. I blame the government for that, too.

In 1947, Dr. Jonas Salk invented the polio vaccine. He refused to patent it, and in 1955 it nearly put an end to the devastating disease. Nobody jacked up the price of the polio vaccine because a moral person invented it. Now Salk would have no control over his invention. Every piece of research goes through universities, large corporations, and ultimately, the government. NIH grants, corporate sponsorship, and R&D labs with ROIs rule medical research now.

This is exactly what President Eisenhower warned us against.

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

There’s no outrage when corporations scoop up medical patents with the express intention of milking us with them. Insurance companies build medical blackmail this into their premiums, and cut private deals with the drug companies. The government created this evil system and now wants to fix it by taking it over.

Note that Mylan CEO Bresch is about as well-connected, politically, as any corporate leader could be. Note that 40 percent of her company’s profits come from the EpiPen, which, after 40 years, should be a cinch to make in huge quantities. Note that Mylan reincorporated in The Netherlands to escape U.S. taxes.

The federal government has rendered our society completely helpless to prevent these kinds of moral catastrophes. All we can do is sign useless petitions and lobby the Big Government to kindly legislate a golden parachute fix to the problem.

This should have been fixed 40 years ago. Sheldon Kaplan, the EpiPen’s inventor, should have had the power to demand the patent for the device he created for Survival Technologies, the company he worked for at the time, remand to public domain after his death. America should have passed a law like that decades ago. But now, such suggestions are called crazy talk.

But instead, we gave more and more power to the government, and expected them to solve all our problems, while private companies–some of which are led by moral, benevolent people, others are not–clean up. The intellectual-worship that led to this has elevated those in government to gods on Olympus, but unlike those petty gods, above self-interest. To quote William F. Buckley, “And since ideas rule the world, the ideologues, having won over the intellectual class, simply walked in and started to run things.”

The intellectual class gave us this elevation of government, cold and unemotional, above outrage. They gave us men without chests. I almost have to laugh at such naiveté. C.S. Lewis captured it in his famous book “The Abolition of Man.”

You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more ‘drive’, or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or ‘creativity’. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.

In America’s case, we’ve created an all-purpose diazepam called the federal government to absorb the pain of moral outrage, and then fed it all our needs. And when the evil erupts in the form of outrages like the EpiPen, we call on our drug of choice in ever larger doses while the disease continues to rage.

About the author

Steve Berman

The old Steve cared about money, prestige, and power. Then Christ found me. All at once things changed. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

I spent 30 years in business. Now I write and edit. But mostly I love. I have a wife and 2 kids and a dog and we live in a little house in central Georgia.

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