imageMylan, the marketer of the EpiPen, dropped the price by 50% this week. This response was due in large part to pressure that outraged parents’ call-outs on social media put on the company.

Tara Parker-Pope in the NY Times Well blog pointed this out in her column, How Parents Harnessed the Power of Social Media to Challenge EpiPen Prices. Online petitions, patient and parent social networks, and patient activists’ ability to leverage social media are the new tools of health and patient engagement.

EpiPen is a must-have medicine for people who deal with serious allergy and asthma conditions, many of whom are children

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  Health care costs in the US are rising, albeit at a slower rate, according to the latest analyses (most recently here in Health Populi). Note that the fastest-growing costs in American healthcare are prescription drugs, and particularly specialty drugs.

But EpiPen is not generally considered a specialty drug, like those for cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, or auto-immune conditions. So the case of the exorbitantly-rising price of EpiPen is unique in that it’s a drug that covers lots of people, as opposed to those specialty drugs that cover more narrow patient populations battling diseases impacting fewer patients.

Health has always been a social phenomenon….and now that costs are increasingly borne by patients, people are acting on their own terms as health economists, but in aggregate — banding together, on price transparency sites like Clear Health Costs, affiliating on patient social networks to price-and-experience compare, and in concert coming together for not only price pressures…but for health reform at the grass roots level. That’s what we’re seeing here with EpiPen. Watch for more scenarios in the coming months where enraged patients, paying more for health care, respond in aggregate and leverage patient power. Welcome to a new chapter in American healthcare. The phrase “consumer-directed health care” will have a brand new meaning. Thank you, Mylan, for helping to consolidate patient power.