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Caroline Hroncich was associate editor for Pharmaceutical Technology, Pharmaceutical Technology Europe, and BioPharm International from 2015 to 2017.
Ranking members of the Senate Judiciary Committee called on Mylan to explain its decision to raise the price of EpiPens nearly 400%.
United States ranking Senate Judiciary committee members are petitioning Mylan for answers regarding a price hike on the company’s EpiPen autoinjector. In statements released in August 2016, Amy Klobuchar, ranking member of the Antitrust Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Charles E. Grassley, chairmen of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, are raising questions over Mylan’s decision to increase the price of EpiPens nearly 400% causing some patients to pay up to $600 for the drug.
Mylan acquired the EpiPen from Merck in 2007, and since has raised the price over 400%, Grassey
in an August 22, 2016 letter. The drug, which is indicated for the treatment of anaphylaxis, delivers a precise dose of epinephrine to patients suffering from severe allergic reactions. Congress signed the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act in 2013, requiring public elementary and secondary schools to maintain a supply of epinephrine on school property. The high cost of the EpiPens has made it difficult for schools, already bogged down by budget constraints, to afford the drug. In addition, some first responders have debated using a syringe and vial instead of an EpiPen, Grassley notes.
“The substantial price increase has caused significant concern among patients,” Grassley writes. “I have heard from one father in Iowa who recently purchased a refill of his daughter’s EpiPen prescription. He reported that to fill the prescription, he had to pay over $500 for one EpiPen.”
Klobuchar raised similar questions in a statement released on August 20, 2016. In the statement, Klobuchar requested the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigate Mylan and the price increases associated with EpiPen. Klobuchar also requested the Judiciary committee hold a hearing to investigate the increase.
The American Medical Association (AMA) and Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton also joined the conversation, urging Mylan to lower the price of EpiPens. AMA said pharma companies should “exercise reasonable restrain in drug pricing.” Clinton, who composed a plan to lower prescription drug prices, called the price hike “outrageous” and asked Mylan to “immediately reduce the price of EpiPens.”
Mylan responded to criticism in a statement on their website, noting that nearly 80% of insured patients using EpiPen received it for free and that the company has distributed more than 700,000 free EpiPens to US schools. The company also noted it offers programs for patients looking to receive EpiPens at a discounted price. Mylan indicated that patients having to pay full price for EpiPens may be related to insurance plans containing high deductibles. On August 25, 2016 Mylan announced plans to further expand programs that allow patients to receive EpiPens at discounted prices. Mylan said its savings card will now cover up to $300 for a two EpiPen pack. The company also said it will double eligibility for its patient assistance program.
Mylan is not the first company to be scrutinized for its decision to increase prescription drug prices. Earlier this year Turing and Valeant received backlash from Congress after they raised their prices. Turing bolstered the price of Daraprim (pyrimethamine) nearly 5000%, and Valeant raised the price of Nitropress (nitroprussid sodium) 212% and Isuprel (isoproterenol) 525%. Both companies were called to testify in a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on the rising cost of prescription drugs.
Sources: Charles E. Grassley, Amy Klobuchar, Hillary Clinton, AMA, Mylan