ACT UP protest pharma greed by smashing giant EpiPen Piñata filled with gold coins outside Mylan headquarters in Manhattan
New York, NY – On Wednesday afternoon, activists from ACT UP/NY (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power), VOCAL NY (Voices of Community Activists and Leaders), UAEM (Universities Allied for Essential Medicines) and other groups protested the ongoing U.S. drug pricing crisis, as demonstrated by the 1,100% increase in the price for an EpiPen, a device that can stop a life-threatening allergic reaction.
A giant EpiPen piñata filled with gold coins was smashed to visualize the greed of the pharmaceutical industry, which threatens millions of lives every year. Activists targeted Mylan CEO Heather Bresch chanting, “Heather Bresch, whaddya say? How many kids have you killed today?”
The protest took place outside the New York City office of Mylan Pharmaceuticals in the Chrysler Building. Mylan, the maker of the Epipen, raised its price from $50 in 2004 to $600 today (the device costs about $20 to make). At the same time, Mylan CEO Heather Bresch saw her salary jump from $2.5 million to $19 million. Mylan has also increased prices over 20% on 24 other drugs, including a 542% increase on a gall stone medication.
Activists were also protesting Gilead Sciences who put a $1,000 per-pill price tag on its hepatitis C drug Sovaldi and Pfizer, Inc which raised prices this year for more than 100 of its drugs, some by as much as 20%.
Activists also decried the price hikes for Naloxone, used to reverse opioid overdoses, which costs over 17 times what it did two years ago, and Insulin, the price of which has jumped over 200% from 2002 to 2013.
Pharma claims their high prices reflect research costs. But a study published in JAMA found that drug companies invest only 10 to 20% of their revenue in research. The authors wrote, “Prescription drugs are priced primarily on the basis of what the market will bear.” Much critical drug research actually takes place in publicly-funded academic institutions or with other taxpayer funding.
ACT UP member Mark Milano said, “Since American taxpayers fund much of the research that goes into creating these medications, we can’t then hand it off to pharmaceutical companies to charge exorbitant prices that we can’t afford or that bankrupt us. High drug prices reduce accessibility and risk people’s lives.”
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