Politics & Policy

The Politics of Anaphylaxis

EpiPen auto-injection epinephrine devices (Reuters Photo/Jim Bourg)
The real scandal of EpiPen pricing

A couple of years ago, I got my front teeth knocked out by a combination of bad decisions and gravity.

I had never so much as seen the inside of a dentist’s office, so I didn’t really know what to expect. The reality was amazing: I went to a tiny little office a few blocks down from National Review’s palatial penthouse at Buckley Towers, where a lovely young Indian immigrant gazed into my mug and compared some enamels samples like a painter trying to decide whether your living room is actually “Westhighland white” or more of a “Restoration ivory,” and then whipped up some new teeth, first a temporary set and then, a week or so later, permanent replacements. Cost a few hundred bucks.


Magic, basically.

But I don’t believe in magic and, being the curious sort, I looked into the process by which my new fake incisors (indistinguishable from what I’d had before) came into being. There’s a whole gigantic back-story there involving everything from dental education to the evolution of CAD/CAM software and equipment, breakthroughs in materials science, physics — there’s a whole weird little subgenre of applied science devoted to the physics of dentistry — the whole feldspathic-porcelains-versus-polycrystalline-ceramics thing. Peruse “The Science Behind Lithium Disilicate” or the latest from Inside Dentistry for a general feel for that. There’s more science in the two front teeth of my big, overactive mouth than was needed to land the Apollo gang on the moon.

And the money! The investment leading up to my visit to that dentist’s office was billions upon billions of dollars, giant R&D projects from the likes of Colgate Palmolive, and, of course, a whole incomprehensibly complex back-backstory of logistics and technological development by means of which those rotten dirty Chinese Donald Trump always is going on about helped me to get new front teeth by manufacturing some of the machinery that made that possible in Nantong and other places nobody’s ever thought about for more than two seconds.

(Nobody other than the 7.2 million people who live there, who presumably do quite a bit more than make dental machinery.)

It all works amazingly well. Billions of dollars and millions of top-tier brain-hours deployed for the benefit of one guy from Lubbock, Texas, who can get his teeth fixed up for the cost of two nights in a Hilton Garden Inn.

Naturally, somebody has to screw that up. But Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders don’t want to mess up your teeth — they want to kill your children.

Public Enemy No. 1 in Democratic circles today is Heather Bresch, CEO of the company that makes the EpiPen, a super-convenient epinephrine auto-injection device used to treat anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that can be caused by anything from a bee sting to a bag of peanuts. At its worst, anaphylaxis is bad news of the kill-you-dead variety, which makes having an EpiPen or two around very handy indeed. Bresch’s company, Mylan, recently raised prices on the EpiPen and several other treatments they sell. An EpiPen dose might cost as much as $600, which is . . . about half of what the typical American family spends on cable TV in a year. Yeah, sure, little Bobby’s face is swelling up like a North Korean dictator’s and his kidneys are about to fail — but there’s two episodes left on Game of Thrones this season! And Daenerys is naked in both of them!

Spare me.

Of course, Hillary Rodham Clinton has decided to make a federal case out of this, as has her primary rival, sometime Democrat and full-time socialist Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, i.e., the usual bulls—t from the usual orifices. Mrs. Clinton demanded an immediate reversal of the price hike, and Senator Sanders produced the usual flatulence about greedy executives.

You know how many treatments for anaphylaxis have been produced by politicians over the course of human history? Zero.

Pardon my bluntness here, but screw these people. Nobody, anywhere, at any time, has ever in a moment of mortal terror cried out: “For God’s sake, is there a politician in the house?” You know how many treatments for anaphylaxis have been produced by politicians over the course of human history? Zero. Congress’s sole contribution to the existence of a handy device that keeps your children from dying from bee stings is the fact that Mylan CEO Heather Bresch is the daughter of a Democratic senator, Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

If we were relying on the intelligence, work ethic, creativity, entrepreneurship, scientific prowess, and far-sightedness of the members of Congress to produce treatments for allergic reactions or any other medical problem, we’d still have a million people a year dying from smallpox and preventable infections. We’d also be starving to death.

Bernie Sanders doesn’t have the first clue how an EpiPen works or what went into developing it, but he’s sure he knows what one should cost, and he’s sure who should decide — him. You know what Bernie Sanders is? He’s a bum. He was damn near 40 years old before he ever found his way into a full-time job, and that was in elected office; before that, he collected benefits, sold his creepy rape fantasies for left-wing newspapers at $50 a pop, and never lifted a finger toward any genuinely productive enterprise. He’s been suckling greedily at the public teat since way back when he could remember where his car keys are. Funny thing, though: Now he’s a bum with a third home on the waterfront of a Vermont island worth the better part of a million dollars. Every good apparatchik eventually gets his dacha.

Mrs. Clinton is a bum and a crook who used the State Department as a funnel to guide the money of favor-seeking business interests at home and abroad into the Clinton Foundation, a sham charity that exists to pay six-figure salaries to Clintons (Chelsea is full-time executive there) and their courtiers.

These people are parasites. They make: nothing. They create: nothing. They produce: nothing. But they feel perfectly justified — they positively glow with moral frisson — standing between the people who create and build and the people who benefit from those creations. And they don’t just stand there: They stand there with their hands out. I don’t know how much Heather Bresch has in the bank, but without checking, I’ll bet you five dollars it is a good deal less than the Clintons have piled up in “public service.”

Thought experiment: Your child is dying. Who do you go to for help? Sanders? Clinton? Or one of the research scientists who made the EpiPen possible?

Yes, Mylan raised the price of an EpiPen. You know who else raised the price on EpiPens? Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, that’s who, and Joe Manchin, too. You thought Obamacare meant free goodies for you paid for by wicked rich people and evil corporations, right, Sunshine? Remember that medical-device tax? An EpiPen is a medical device. You think the politicians don’t have any self-interest there?

Short of rainbows and redwoods, just about every good thing we have in this world is the result of the fact that somebody, somewhere, worked to create it. Some of those people were philanthropists, like the ones who built so many of our libraries, museums, and schools. Some were in business, like the people who are bringing you awesome electric cars and little pocket devices that have more computing power than a major research university could muster only a few decades ago. Epinephrine is unstable, and developing a way to store and deliver it reliably isn’t easy. Others have tried and failed; some have tried and been blocked by federal regulators, who of course have only your best interests at heart. (Federal employees care about two things: serving the public and consuming vast amounts of online porn during office hours. Okay, maybe they care about one thing.) You don’t have to love the people who dream and create — that’s why you pay them. And they don’t have to love you. Hell, they don’t even have to know you — who in Nantong cares about my teeth?

All that has to happen is for all of us to let it happen. And that’s in everybody’s interest except the vultures, incompetents, thieves, crooks, and parasites who purport to rule us.


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