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EpiPens' price jumped more than 500%, and lawmakers want to know why

The EpiPen, an important item for people with severe food allergies, has gotten a lot more expensive.

Members of Congress are demanding more information on why the price of lifesaving EpiPens has skyrocketed.

EpiPens are injection devices used to ward off potentially fatal allergic reactions, and the price has surged in recent years. A two-dose package cost around $94 nine years ago. The average cost was more than six times that in May, according to the Elsevier Clinical Solutions' Gold Standard Drug Database.

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Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote to Mylan, the company that manufactures the devices, and asked for more information on why the prices have increased.

He cited the cost to parents whose children need them and also to schools that keep the EpiPens on hand. He noted that the costs also can be passed on to taxpayers when children are covered by Medicaid or other government programs.

In a statement issued Monday, Mylan said it has savings programs for patients and also is offering free EpiPens to schools. The company said around half of U.S. schools are participating in that program.

Recent changes in health insurance have resulted in higher deductible costs for many families, the company said. "This current and ongoing shift has presented new challenges for consumers, and now they are bearing more of the cost" of the devices, it said.

Two other senators, Democrats Mark Warner of Virginia and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, also wrote to Mylan about the high prices. Warner said in a letter Tuesday that the issue is personal for him.

"As the parent of a child with severe allergies, I am all too familiar with the life-or-death importance of these devices," Warner wrote.

Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) asked the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Tuesday to hold a hearing on the issue. She is a co-chair of the Congressional Kids Safety Caucus.

"Thousands of Americans rely on EpiPens in a given year, and perhaps no time is more important in the purchasing of these devices than the beginning of a new school year," Meng wrote in a letter to the committee's chairman, Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), and top Democrat Elijah Cummings of Maryland.

A two-dose package of the devices sold for an average $608 in May, according to the Elsevier database.

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UPDATES:

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1:50 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details.

10:10 a.m.: This article was updated with a comment from Mylan.

This article was originally published at 8:55 a.m.

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