The United States is one of the only developed countries in which citizens
are unable to cover the costs of their health care. For most first world
and developed countries, the medical industry is largely subsidized by
the government through taxes, and costs are kept low and manageable for
the citizens. However, in our country, we are still seeing, even with
Obamacare in place, a situation in which many are unable to afford medication,
and the prices never stay consistent and are prone to market changes and
patent monopolies held by the pharmaceutical industries. As such, around
the country, people are suffering as a result of not being able to afford
high prices for drugs that are beyond reasonable.
What is Price Gouging?
Price gouging is when a company spikes the prices of its product based on a shift in
the market where demand becomes increasingly high and prices increase
to capitalize on the situation. For example, during a heat wave, a shop
may increase the price of water because it is in higher demand. Price
gouging in emergency situations can be a criminal offense, especially
when people die as a result of not being able to afford the commodity.
Pharmaceutical companies have been largely unchecked for their price gouging,
as we saw in the situation of Epipens last year when Mylan, the producer
of EpiPen, increased the cost of its product by approximately 400%. In
the last eight years, EpiPen prices have spiked by almost 1000%.
Mylan and EpiPens: Price Gouging in 2016
EpiPen is one of the most well-known examples of pharmaceutical companies profiting
off and price gouging people whose lives depend on the affordability of
the drug. EpiPen provides a quick dose of epinephrine that helps to counter
a life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylactic shock. The
EpiPen is used in emergency situations in which a person comes into contact
with an allergen that can lead to death, such as bee stings and peanuts,
and the person only has a matter of minutes before his or her throat is
constricted to the point of suffocation. Once the EpiPen is administered,
the person suffering the attack is given additional time to reach a hospital
to treat the severe reaction.
Maryland’s House Bill 631: Prohibition Against Drug Price Gouging
Maryland has put forth legislation this month that would give a cause of action and standing to the Maryland
attorney general to sue pharmaceutical companies that spike their prices
to an unreasonable level (generally around 50% increase) and would satisfy
the elements of price gouging.
The legislation looks to
protect consumers from price gouging for off-patent or generic drugs
considered essential that feature on the List of Essential Medicines adopted by the World Health
Organization or that have been designated as an essential medication by
the Secretary due to the medication’s ability to
treat life-threatening conditions and/or chronic health conditions that substantially impair the daily functions
of the consumer.
Definition of “Price Gouging” and “Unconscionable Increase”
in Maryland’s Bill
Price gouging, within the bill, is defined by an unconscionable increase
in the price of the essential medication, when the increase is found to be:
- Not justified by the cost of producing and/or manufacturing the drug;
- Not justified by the cost related to the reasonable expansion of the access
to the drug as part of a public health policy; and
- The consumer is left with no meaningful choice regarding the purchase of
the drug because the drug is either essential for the treatment of the
consumer’s medical condition and/or the drug has insufficient competition
in the market place.
Charles County, MD Personal Injury Lawyers that Fight for You
Doctors and pharmaceutical companies sometimes are hand-in-hand when it
comes to price gouging and the incredible high costs of medical care.
If you or loved one was injured, seriously harmed, or killed as a result
of price gouging by a pharmaceutical company or as a result of a doctor
prescribing unnecessarily expensive drugs, it is important to consult
with an experienced personal injury attorney. Please call the
Law Office of Robert R. Castro at (301) 804-2312 for a confidential consultation.