Mylan’s EpiPen at center of controversy

By Jeff Jenkins in News
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Mylan CEO Heather Bresch could be called to Capitol Hill in the near future to answer questions about the significant rise in the cost of Mylan’s EpiPen. Three members of the U.S. Senate and a member of the U.S. House have written letters calling for reviews and investigations.

Mylan, which has a large operation in Morgantown, hasn’t had much response to the criticism. It has said it’s investing in its product.
“They say, ‘We’re very concerned with making sure the product does its job and is accessible,’ Boston-based health issues writer Ed Silverman said Wednesday on MetroNews “Talkline.” “Then they sort of go sideways and talk about how they have programs to help people afford the device but there are questions about people actually getting sufficient help.”

A lot of people, including children, need EpiPens in case they get stung by a bee or have another allergic reaction that could be deadly in some cases. The product doesn’t have much competition. The price for a two-pack is now about $600, up 461 percent since 2007. Bresch, the Marion County native and daughter of U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, has seen her pay increase by 671 percent, from approximately $2.4 million to $19 million, during the same period of time.

All of those components have created a lot of questions, Silverman said.

“Here’s a device that can really make a big difference and suddenly the cost goes up exponentially and that’s a budget buster for a lot of people,” he said.

The increases in cost were a modest five percent in 2008 and 2009 followed by 10 percent hikes from 2010-2013 and then 15 percent increases every other quarter beginning in late 2013. The EpiPen represented 40 percent of Mylan’s profits in 2014.

Mylan has been under fire for the last few years after choosing to move its headquarters overseas to avoid a higher federal tax rate. Some may see what Mylan is doing as good business moves, Silverman said.

“They are doing things to lower the corporate tax rate, which means there are more profits flowing. They are doing what they need to do to make sure the products they sale are not only selling but are selling for the best price possible,” he said. “The maximum price (of the EpiPen) may help the bottom line but on a broader scale what if it means that certain kids can’t get EpiPen?”

A 2008 controversy involving Bresch found she didn’t complete the coursework but was granted an MBA by WVU. The fallout included the resignation of several university officials at the time including then WVU President Mike Garrison.

Silverman works for statnews.com. He’s a senior writer and Pharmalot columnist and has covered the pharmaceutical industry for the past two decades.