While Mylan Pharmaceuticals is cashing in on the EpiPen price hikes, the inventor of the life-saving device, who made it for the public, died in obscurity.
Sheldon Kaplan, who was an engineer for NASA before inventing the EpiPen, lived a humble, middle-class lifestyle. His surviving family members say he was never paid royalties for the device he invented, and never became famous for designing a product now used by millions.
After working at NASA, Kaplan started working for Survival Technology, Incorporated in Bethesda, Maryland. Kaplan sought to create a device intended to quickly inject a user suffering from anaphylaxis — a potentially fatal allergic reaction — with an emergency dose of epinephrine. EpiPens are a lifesaver for anyone allergic to common foods, like peanuts, shellfish, and eggs. Before the EpiPen was invented, anaphylactic shock had to be treated by drawing epinephrine from a bottle with a syringe, which was too time-consuming.
In 1973, when Kaplan was finalizing the design concept for the EpiPen, he was approached by the U.S. Department of Defense, which was looking for a device that could quickly inject an easily deliverable antidote for nerve gas. Kaplan’s design was for a device that a person could easily stick into one’s thigh, prompting a spring-loaded mechanism to push a needle containing life-saving medicine into the user’s bloodstream.
Kaplan’s invention became known as the ComboPen, and was initially used by the Pentagon before becoming available for use by the general public several years later as the EpiPen.
Mylan simply bought the device in 2007, made some minor changes to the design, and obtained a patent that's good through 2025. The daughter of Joe Manchin (D-W.VA) became Mylan's top lobbyist and successfully ended up with a bill in November 2013 that requires all public schools to stock EpiPens for students with food allergies, and the bill was duly signed into law by Obama.
This development brought Mylan boatloads of money and propelled the Senator's daughter into the CEO job, and in 2014 the company reincorporated in The Netherlands in order to cut its tax rate. In other words, EpiPen was developed entirely with tax money paid by the Department of Defense. Mylan - and its execs - are reaping the profits and jacking up the prices while moving offshore to avoid U.S. Taxes.
According to Bloomberg, a package of two EpiPens costs $415 in the US after insurance discounts. Comparatively, in France, two EpiPens cost just $85 USD.
They must have different rules over there.