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Lawmakers Raise Concerns Over Price Surge Of EpiPens

FORT LEE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Some lawmakers are calling for federal investigations and hearings into the recent price surge of a potentially life-saving allergy medication.

Pharmacies paid around $100 for an EpiPen two-pack in 2009, but the price has since skyrocketed to more than $600 -- a more than 480 percent increase for a medicine that doctors say costs about $2 per dose, CBS News reported.

The rising cost has elected officials, including New Jersey State Sen. Richard Codey (D-Essex), asking why the prices are now so high. He called it "price gouging, plain and simple."

"Many families can't afford this," he told CBS2's Janelle Burrell. "I'm not a math major, but that's a hell of an increase for those families and these youngsters as well."

Codey fired off a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch calling for pharmaceutical company Mylan, the maker of the EpiPen, to be held accountable and requesting government oversight.

New Jersey State Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Woodbridge) called the price "unconscionable."

"Look, everybody wants to make money," Vitale told WCBS 880's Sean Adams. "But this is at the expense of children and the price itself is just unaffordable and really outrageous. So the Federal Trade Commission, we've asked them, the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Justice Department and others to look at this price gauging and this monopoly issue."

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) said she submitted a letter to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform requesting a hearing on the price increase.

"The free market can be a wonderful engine for good in our society, and it has certainly led to the production of countless medical innovations," Meng said in a statement. "We must be vigilant, however, to not cross the line of price-gouging, especially when a product has been around for a generation and is incredibly cheap to produce."

The EpiPen is filled with epinephrine, which works to counter the effects of a severe allergic reaction. EpiPens expire and need to be replaced every year. With no generic alternative and the only competitor going out of the business last year, many parents feel helpless.

"Epinephrine is not that expensive of a drug, so to increase this for families, I think is shameful," said Ann Bouchard, a mother of four children who all have food allergies.

Emily Youree's 5-year-old daughter, Anna, has severe sesame allergy. She said some families are now taking extreme measures to get the drug that they now can't afford.

"It's not cliche to say it's life or death," she said. "We've heard situations where people are recommending going to Canada or other countries to buy them."

Mylan began increasing the price in 2007 after it took over the product. The company told CBS News the price increase reflects "a significant investment to support the device over the years" adding that they are  committed "to find solutions to meet the needs of the patients and families we serve."

The company also said it does offer an assistance program and gives free EpiPens to schools.

Experts say another factor is higher deductibles for insurance plans, meaning some families have to pay more out of pocket.

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