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Aug. 22 — Concerns about steep drug price increases are now focusing on Mylan's allergy treatment EpiPen.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said in an Aug. 20 statement that a pack of two EpiPens cost $100 in 2009. Mylan Pharmaceutical Inc. is now selling the packs for $500, with some patients reportedly seeing prices as high as $600, she said. The Minnesota Democrat asked the Judiciary Committee to investigate.
Meanwhile, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the committee, sent a request Aug. 22 to Mylan for information on the pricing of EpiPen.
Grassley's letter said the cost of an EpiPen prescription “has implications for the federal taxpayers.” He said that more than 40 percent of U.S. children are insured through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, adding that “many of the children who are prescribed EpiPens are covered by Medicaid and therefore the taxpayers are picking up the tab for this medication.”
The requests come as the drug industry has been criticized for its high prices, with some specific instances gaining notoriety. For example, in 2015, Turing Pharmaceuticals and its then-chief executive, Martin Shkreli, purchased a drug called Daraprim and immediately raised its price more than 5,000 percent. Daraprim is used to treat toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection that can be life-threatening for people with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other conditions that cause compromised immune systems.
Mylan's price increase is occurring at the same time that the company has gained market power, Klobuchar said. Sanofi's Auvi-Q, a competing product to EpiPen, was recalled from the market in 2015 due to dosage delivery problems. Teva also failed to receive approval for its generic version of the product in March.
“This outrageous increase in the price of EpiPens is occurring at the same time that Mylan Pharmaceutical is exploiting a monopoly market advantage that has fallen into its lap,” Klobuchar, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee's Antitrust Subcommittee, said in a statement. “Not only should the Judiciary Committee hold a hearing, the Federal Trade Commission should investigate these price increases immediately. The Commission should also report to Congress on why these outrageous price increases have become common and propose solutions that will better protect consumers within 90 days.”
Mylan said in a statement provided to Bloomberg BNA Aug. 22 that the company “has worked tirelessly over the past years advocating for increased anaphylaxis awareness, preparedness and access to treatment for those living with potentially life-threatening (severe) allergies.”
“With changes in the healthcare insurance landscape, an increasing number of people and families are enrolled in high deductible health plans, and deductible amounts continue to rise. This shift has presented new challenges for consumers, and they are bearing more of the cost,” Mylan said. The drugmaker said this “change to the industry is not an easy challenge to address, but we recognize the need and are committed to working with customers and payors to find solutions to meet the needs of the patients and families we serve.”
“Ensuring access to epinephrine—the only first-line treatment for anaphylaxis—is a core part of our mission,” Mylan said. “We are proud of the programs which we have implemented over the past years to help support access to treatment, including our My EpiPen Savings Card, a patient assistance program, and the EpiPen4Schools program, which provides free EpiPen (epinephrine injection, USP) Auto-Injectors to U.S. schools.”
Nearly 80 percent of commercially insured patients using the My EpiPen Savings Card received the product for free, Mylan said. Since the start of the EpiPen4Schools initiative in 2013, more than 700,000 free EpiPen auto-injectors have been distributed, and more than 65,000 schools, approximately half of all U.S. schools, have participated in the program.
Mylan's U.S. headquarters is in Canonsburg, Pa.
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