It was a bite. Not even a bite, more like a nibble. It was the small sampling of a cashew that sent my body into hysterics. I had just completed my allergy testing a few days before and had been scoped a few weeks before that, so based on those results I was excited to add new sources of protein into my life. One of the main items I was thrilled to add was cashews. All signs pointed to my being able to try this new food and that my body would react well to this experiment. At that point I was trying to lower the amount of meat (especially red meat) in my diet so I was working towards adding nuts as a healthy alternative. To say that this attempt was not met with great success would be an understatement.
Within minutes both of my eyes were swollen and I had limited vision. I began to feel hives crawling up and down my skin. An intense wave of nausea hit me and I began to vomit an impressive distance. My hands began to swell up and felt extremely hot. I was struggling to breathe properly, as though a snake was wrapping itself around my throat, closing off all oxygen to my body.
Yes, you guessed it correctly. I was watching another Cleveland team choke away another victory (get it?). Okay, fine. It was much worse. My body was going into anaphylaxis, or to simplify the event, an allergic reaction. I have had plenty of these before and every single time they are downright terrifying.
Every time I am forced to explain this event I always feel as though I am crafting an elaborate conspiracy theory. I get this glossed-over look from the person to whom I am talking because what I explain does not seem anything like what entertainment has depicted, though, I must give credit to the great documentary, “Hitch” for their classic showing of Will Smith’s facing growing to be the size of a melon. That is very real. But the person you are on a date with does not usually fall in love with you after that event happens. Only Will Smith could make an allergic reaction seem…cool.
As this cashew experiment gone horribly wrong began to unfold I searched my house for the item that would save me in that moment as it had saved me multiple times in the past: An epinephrine autoinjector, or known by its popular name, an Epi-Pen. I think it is important for me to start there when talking about this sock design. Epi-Pen has saved my life. I fully acknowledge this and I am thankful everyday that I live in this period of time where medicine has created a device that I can carry with me in all situations to save me from anaphylaxis. However, it is also important for me to recognize that the company who owns the product “Epi-Pen”, the company called Mylan, is just as thankful for me.
You may know that a few years ago, Mylan’s prices for Epi-Pens raised to $600 for a two-pack. In a short time frame, from 2009-2016 Epi-Pens went from $103.50-$608.61. This price increase sparked a bit of outrage from the allergy community leading to a point where Mylan CEO Heather Bresch went to a congressional hearing to explain the meteoric rise in pricing.
As someone who has a deep interest in this subject I have followed this story. I have watched the hearing videos, I have read the transcripts, I have read the news articles, I have watched the CBS news coverage where they were the first news media to go inside the manufacturing plant where this drug is produced. Throughout my research I have seen one thing continue to reveal itself over and over when it comes to Mylan’s production of medicine and especially when it comes to the price increase of a literal life-saving drug. Greed.
Hey Mylan: You need us as much as we need you. You are excited when we get sick. When the air starts to leave ours lungs you are thrilled to know that additionally our money will be leaving our pockets and diving deep into yours. You do not care about us so stop pretending that you do. When our eyes swell shut you begin to plan your next vacation or fly to your son’s next concert (this seriously happened). You want us to be sick. You want us to need you. You want us to have allergic reactions. You are an aspect of this disease we should not have to fight. You are supposed to help us, not find ways to actively take advantage of us. We are already navigating through a minefield when it comes to our nutrition and you are supposed to keep us safe in case we struggle, not abuse us because of our illness.
This is the inspiration of this design. A drug that has once saved me is now gloating in its exploitation of me. The Epi-Pen is thrilled to see it raining allergens because it views those ingredients as money. It sees my weakness in this disease as a way to strengthen its company’s market shares. The Epi-Pen does not care about your scope cost, your doctors’ visits, your formula expenses, your trips to ER. Instead it only cares about how much you are willing to pay to stay alive.
After the public outcry, the congressional meeting, the media backlash, your own patients advocating for a change in price Mylan has done absolutely nothing. Why? Greed. Prove me wrong.
NOTE: On some of the prints of this design the face doesn't line up properly and the smile on the Epi-Pen character is crooked. This isn't a mistake.
Story by: Joshua & Stefanie Riley
Artwork by: Ian O'Neill
Photos by: Black Valve