Life-saving Epipens have skyrocketed in price over the years.
There has been much talk and distain about EpiPen pricing as of late. In July, Pfizer and its two subsidiaries, King Pharmaceuticals and Meridian Medical Technologies, were proposing payment of $345 million to settle a number of class action antitrust suits regarding this issue.
Pfizer makes the epinephrine auto-injector for Mylan, which has owned the brand name since 2007 and markets the EpiPen device. Mylan agreed to a $465 million settlement with the Department of Justice in 2017 for overcharging consumers. When Mylan first acquired the rights to EpiPen, the device cost $100. Today, the same product costs more than $650 for a two-pack. A spokesperson for Pfizer said the company “denies any wrongdoing and continues to believe its actions are appropriate.” The statement insisted, “This resolution reflects a desire by the Company to avoid the distraction of continued litigation and focus on breakthroughs that change patients’ lives.”
Most claims against Mylan were dismissed by U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree in June, but he allowed other antitrust litigation to move forward to trial, set for September 7.
In 2018, there were more than 2 million prescriptions for EpiPens. Mylan was the sole manufacturer of until a few years ago, and since it had a monopoly over the market, it was able to continuously increase prices. The decision to increase the price of the EpiPen was made under the direction of CEO Heather Bresch whose $18 million yearly salary has also drawn criticism.
“The greed is astounding, it’s sickening,” said Rep. John Duncan, R-Tenn., in an Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, about Epipen pricing.
“The story got ahead of the facts,” replied Bresch when her income was made public. She said there is a “misconception” about the company’s profits, and added, “Price and access exist in a balance, and we believe we have struck that balance.”
Mylan merged with Upjohn of Pfizer in 2020 and was renamed Viatris. Bresch left the picture with $30.8 million. The restructuring has led many of the manufacturing jobs to be outsourced. Manchin is troubled by the outsourcing from its state and is appealing to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to classify the plant as an “essential element of the national supply chain” and save it from closure.
“The market forces aren’t at work,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, the committee’s chairman. He used the analogy, “When the juice is a dollar and you’re selling it for $600, there’s some room for profit.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the panel’s top Democrat, noted that Mylan had repeatedly raised EpiPen pricing over the years. He drew comparisons between Mylan, Turing Pharmaceuticals and Valeant. “They sat at this very witness table with absolutely no remorse,” he said.
Douglas Throckmorton, a deputy director at the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, was invited to testify at the hearing. He said the agency approved four other auto-injectors. Bresch’s father is Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. A recent investigation also discovered that the CEO’s mother encouraged states to have schools keep EpiPens in stock when she headed the National Association of State Boards of Education.
“I thought it was a very cheap shot to bring my mother into this,” Bresch said while being testified.