The maker of the EpiPen continues ahead with plans to sell a cheaper, generic version of the allergy shots, but one observer says the company is merely trying to save face.
Mylan N.V., which has headquarters in Hertfordshire, England, and Pittsburgh, has hiked prices as frequently as three times a year over the past nine years, recently pushing its list price for a package of two syringes to more than $600. That increase upset some consumers, while reports of significant salary increases for Mylan's CEO didn't help.
Mylan has since announced it will expand programs that lower out-of-pocket costs. More recently, Mylan announced it will start selling a cheaper, generic version of the EpiPen.
"I think that Mylan is scrambling to undo the public damage that has happened from this 400-percent increase in a medication that only costs $1," responds Twila Brase, president of Citizens' Council for Health Freedom. "They don't want to be called in for a hearing [and] they don't want to have all that negative publicity – and they would love the problem to just go away."
Mylan's actions 'unconscionable'
Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) are calling for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to provide information on the effect of Mylan's price increases on the government's prescription drug costs.
"It is unconscionable that you would have a 440-percent increase in the price of a product that's been around since 1901, meaning the simple product of adrenaline – and it's even more unconscionable that it would be for a life-saving drug, because people who are allergic to certain things, this product would keep them alive" Grassley tells OneNewsNow.
"[Mylan] can get away with it because they're a monopoly," the senator adds, "but it seems to me that they have some social responsibilities to keep [a life-saving drug] available at a reasonable price."
Grassley has also asked the FDA about its disapproval of a competitive product, while inquiring what if anything is in the pipeline for competition. "Getting another drug out there is the best way to keep Mylan fiscally responsible," the senator concludes.
Republicans and Democrats asked Mylan for more information about the price hikes (see sidebar). As reported by OneNewsNow, the situation could be interesting, given the fact that the CEO of Mylan is the daughter of Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia).
Regardless, Brase thinks this all shows what happens when people have to pay out of their own pockets.
"When the CEO tries to blame insurance deductibles as the reason why this is difficult for people, that is the wrong response," she argues. "This is an old drug that she spent time trying to get all sorts of people to mandate, so it's the wrong thing. But I think the real lesson here is when people are paying the prices, they will complain when they feel like they've been gouged."
According to Brase, the right line of thinking is that everybody should actually feel the price in some way, shape, or form.
"Then a company like hers could never do what they did and be successful because everybody would complain all the time and they would know it," she explains. "They would know it before they ever did it. They wouldn't do it."
In a recent interview with OneNewsNow, an M.D. with the American Enterprise Institute said government regulations are at least partly to blame for giving Mylan a "perpetual monopoly" on its product.