An article describes research by the Kaiser Family Foundation which indicates dramatic increases in the cost of EpiPens to both Medicare Part D spending, as well as the direct costs to consumers (Lagasse, 2016).. Near the beginning of the article the tone is set with the information that the costs of the medication have increased by 1,151% to the program, even though usage has only risen by 164%. The article is likely to leave advocates of healthcare accountability and those with friends and family who need the EpiPen fuming mad, and this is because of the persuasive capacity of the article.
The article uses statistics and numbers to emphasize the shocking claims regarding EpiPen, and these facts are used in the place of allegations or accusations. Despite the lack of blame it would be difficult to find sympathy for the drug manufacturer and retailer in light of these facts, which are quite stark. Without making a single negative statement about Mylan, who acquired the company from Merck around the time that the price increases began to escalate, the article has clearly described them as villains using only statistical analysis of the price and sales.
The statistical claims which are used focus on the increase of list price between 2007 and the present, increases in consumers using the EpiPen, as well as average per capita and out of pocket spending. This is underscored by also stating the current retail price for the drug.
The numbers are contextualized by comparing the rise in the costs of the EpiPen to other increases in healthcare costs to indicate that even in that specialized area the cost increases represents a marked departure from the inflation of costs of other health sector products.
The article leaves some important questions to be formulated by the reader, rather than spelled out, including the implications for insurers and healthcare spending as well as the potential negative impact on families that simply cannot afford the lifesaving medication. By not making any editorial comments on the cost hike or providing opinions on causes of the price increases the article makes an even more persuasive case, because the reaction of the reader is their own. The article does not tell readers how to feel, and this strengthens the response.
On the other hand, the article is carefully written so that it would be difficult to come to any positive conclusions with regard to the situation. If there were good reasons for the increased cost, these are not shared in the article, nor commented on. For example, it is possible that the costs of raw materials to make the EpiPen has risen; the reader simply does not know why the costs have risen based on the article, and this lack of information makes it appear as though the increases are unnecessary, and even villainous. The reader is being corralled into their conclusions, despite not being told what those conclusions should be, on the basis of the evidence which is and is not provided. In other words, the message has been carefully shaped for the audience, despite the appearance that the reader is making the determinations based on solid and factual evidence.
The rhetorical strategies employed in this article are extremely effective, and without critical consideration of how the message is crafted it would lead many to have negative feelings about Mylan, the company which owns the EpiPen drug. That is not to say that there are reasons to have sympathy for Mylan, only that a very narrow presentation of the facts has been made, one which provides for a strong negative emotional response which is directed at Mylan.
- Lagasse, J. (2016). EpiPen payments by Medicare Part D have risen 1,000% since 2007, Kaiser Family Foundation finds. Healthcare Finance. Retrieved from: www.healthcarefinancenews.com/