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EpiPen shows it's easy to generate medical bill sticker shock

You may have heard of the EpiPen. The medical device can be a lifesaver for someone who goes into anaphylactic shock because of a severe allergy attack. It delivers an injection of epinephrine into a victim's body, opening airways and narrowing blood vessels. Epinephrine has been around a long time. What makes the EpiPen different is the delivery system. It's so easy that almost anyone can give the shot.

The benefit of the EpiPen is so great that doctors typically advise allergy patients to have two of them at hand at times. As a result, families in Illinois and everywhere else in the country who have individuals who could fall victim to bad reactions typically buy multiple two-pack sets for home, car and school. But now, some parents worry that the cost of the device could send them into a medical bill financial crisis.

Back in 2007, the EpiPen sets cost less than $100. The company that bought the rights to the product that year has hiked the price nearly every year since then and in May announced that a two-pack would cost more than $600.

One mother in New Jersey calls the increase obscene and lawmakers in Washington agree. One group of senators is going after the pharmaceutical company demanding an explanation for why the cost for this essential product has gone up so much.

In response to the furor, Mylan announced this week that it will now start selling a generic version of the EpiPen two-pack for $300, but that hasn't quelled the public outcry.

Observers of the pharmaceutical industry say what this situation reflects is just how convoluted the system is for prescription drugs. Many players, from drug makers, benefit management firms, insurers and the Medicare and Medicaid programs all play roles. And many say that what is being seen now is that consumers, being shifted into higher-deductible health plans, are now more exposed.

That exposure is the type of thing that can leave individuals in dire straits when medical emergencies strike. Fortunately, there are options for finding relief if one will simply consult an experienced attorney.

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