Photo: Winnie Au

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Mellini Kantayya
The Accidental Activist
Mellini Kantayya has a friend whose daughter has severe food allergies. Last summer, in a Facebook post, the friend announced she’d been charged $600 for EpiPens. Kantayya had just picked up the portable epinephrine injectors for a $25 copay: “My husband has a swelling condition, though it’s never been life-threatening. Our doctor wanted him to have a backup since we were going to be traveling.” That EpiPen’s manufacturer, Mylan, would put it so far out of reach for some families seemed unfair. “There’s no reason it should ever be so expensive. It cost around $100 less than ten years ago!” she says.

Kantayya, a Brooklyn actor and author, posted a rant on, a site that sends letters to lawmakers, and shared it on social media. So did her friends, and their friends, and friends of friends—until 80,000 people had forwarded letters to Congress. Then a group of senators, including Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, wrote their own stern letter to Mylan CEO Heather Bresch, calling the product “exorbitantly expensive” and noting a 670 percent increase in her total annual compensation since 2007. The next week, a Senate subcommittee announced plans to investigate Mylan’s EpiPen pricing. “I had no idea it would take off like this,” says Kantayya. “But I’m so glad it did, because something needed to happen.”