With an eye on the food allergy community as a unique group of consumers since 2008, we're on a quest to find and share ways to continue enjoying the good things in life.

29 February 2016

Food Allergy Marketing or Education?

The pharmaceutical industry has been using disease awareness campaigns to market their products and build customer loyalty for several years now. Both Mylan and Sanofi, manufacturers of epinephrine auto-injectors in the U.S. and Canada have used such campaigns in their marketing strategies, though Mylan has been much more aggressive and Sanofi is out of the picture. Mylan signed a strategic alliance agreement with Disney in 2014 to make Epi-pens accessible at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, and in August 2015, Mylan and Disney announced an educational website, myallergykingdom. Now, the first of two childrens books from this joint venture is available in ebook format. Disney and a major pharmaceutical company, Mylan--it is a formidable partnership.

The partnership has been celebrated by many in the food allergy community. The benefits of the partnership are most evident in the delighted reactions and happy memories of Disney World visitors who manage food allergies. Blog posts and Facebook posts recount the positive experiences of many visitors there.

Let us not be deceived. It still is marketing (under the cover of food allergy education and promotion of food allergy awareness), even though it is a campaign which provides very enjoyable benefits to visitors with food allergies at Disney Parks and Resorts. In addition, this does not change the fact that Epi-pens are overpriced. Significantly! A happy trip to Disney World does not lower the price of Epi-pens. On some level, it is insulting to think that Mylan is hoping that a nice ebook and a trip to Disney World is going to make people forget about the price-gouging. Even the $100 co-pay card is a drop in the bucket for many, particularly those with high deductible health insurance.

Many refrain from saying anything critical of Mylan, since they produce the one non-generic epinephrine auto-injector currently available in the United States. I am as grateful for the existence and availability of Epi-pens as any other mother of a child with food allergies. I treasure my Epi-pens; but my gratitude for Epi-pens does not excuse Mylan from the price-gouging. Mylan receives praise and thanks for producing ebooks about anaphylaxis and making their product available all around Disney World; Mylan is also the company that has jacked up the price of Epi-pens over the last several years. It is the same company that offers patient assistance for Epi-pens only to those with no health insurance and not to those with high deductible health insurance. This is not a company concerned about families managing food allergies. If Mylan were, they would provide financial help by lowering the price of Epi-pens or at least offering patient assistance to those with high deductible health insurance plans.

Let's be honest. It's like that old saying, "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig." The new ebook from Mylan and Disney is a good educational book about anaphylaxis and is well done, but Epi-pens are still outrageously overpriced. What families of children with food allergies need from Mylan is lower prices, not another book with Disney characters. C'mon Mylan, we deserve better.

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