I skim my thumb over the social media posts on my phone late one night. Funny memes, back to school photos of my friends’ kids, and political news. Other than the start of a new school year, there’s really nothing out of the ordinary. Then it stops me. NBC News breaks another story on a pharmaceutical company. Maybe you saw it.
Truthfully, I saw the photo before I saw the headline. Any mom armed with an EpiPen will stop what she’s doing when she sees a food allergy post. Then I read the headline: Mylan Execs Gave Themselves Raises As They Hiked EpiPen Prices. I click on the story and read it. I balk at the numbers, read a few of the comments, give it a Facebook “angry” emoji, and close the app. The next afternoon I see a similar post again and I read it a second time and a third time. The inflated numbers are baffling and I just can’t stop thinking about all the families like mine that rely on this life-saving medicine. How did epinephrine come to be so expensive? Why is there not a generic version? Is the CEO’s annual salary really almost $19 million dollars?
I Google search “Mylan CEO” to put a face and a name to the story. Heather Bresch. Seriously? Heather Bresch. While I partly expected to see a photo of a beady-eyed vampire, Heather Bresch looks like she is my age. No way, she can’t be. She’s busy juggling life as a successful CEO and earning 19 million dollars while I juggle 4 kids, half-ass my PTA involvement, and don’t buy anything from Target without my Cartwheel coupon app. Okay. Good for her. Really. Bust those glass ceilings. But I begin wondering if Heather is a mother, like me.
Is Heather a mother who has to keep watch of every bit of food her son puts in his mouth? Does she let him go off to play with other kids and hope to God he doesn’t share snacks? Maybe she, too, stands in the grocery store reading every label of every thing she puts in her cart. Does she just LOVE holiday treats? Sorting through and confiscating Halloween candy that contains nuts from a three year old on a sugar high? (So much fun, Heather.) Did she once sit at her dinner table and watch her eleven month old baby have an anaphylaxis reaction? Did she learn the hard way that Benedryl does not work, only two doses from an EpiPen pack will save her son from dying of internal suffocation?
Heather has rightfully earned a high-profile (read: kick ass) job so my bet is that HR has her set up with excellent insurance coverage. But does she get only one insurance-approved EpiPen pack every year, carry it everywhere her son goes, and makes sure she doesn’t leave it in the car? Does she know that if she does leave that EpiPen in the car, the medicine will spoil and she will have to make another appointment with her son’s specialist, wait a month for the next availability, and then explain what happened to the unused EpiPen so the doctor will agree to write another script. Does she know that doctors do not like doing that? (Heather, don’t waste the doctor’s time making such a foolish and expensive mistake.) Does she know that insurance will not cover another EpiPen in the same calendar year? (Heather, be prepared to tell the CVS pharmacist that you already know that as you swipe your credit card for an $800 prescription.)
Does she know that every adult in the house should carry an EpiPen, and her child’s teacher should have an EpiPen, and her child’s school office should have an EpiPen? That’s three, maybe four. Don’t even let a parent chaperone leave it at the zoo when the field trip is over. Someone will steal it (because EpiPens are quite valuable) and you will have to go back to CVS. Does she know that most parents can afford only one EpiPen? And does she know that some parents take the risk of not having one because a Quick Care visit is less expensive?
Heather, if you have been down this road already, call me. I’m just getting the hang of it and I could use a good girl talk. And if you have experienced these daily realities, you feel me, right? Change it up. Altogether use your motherly code of ethics along with your bad ass business sense that already has you busting CEO glass ceilings. Think twice when making executive decisions that criminalize pharmaceutical companies. Rethink inflated Mylan raises and 400% increases on EpiPen prices and do better. How? Make it affordable, of course. But do more. What can you do for children with food allergies that attend school? Help increase food allergy awareness. Help educate administrators and educators about life threatening food allergies. Donate EpiPens to school nurses so parents do not have to fill multiple prescriptions. Give charitable donations to food allergy research. Fund food allergy desensitization programs and make them available across the nation.
What I want you to know is that, as CEO, there is so much more to it than the bottom line. You, Heather Bresch, are in a position to change the game, and there are so many ways you can help children live healthy lives and parents worry a little bit less.