Senators say the ‘burden’ of high price is still borne by insurers, companies and workers
A group of 20 senators called the recent price-lowering overtures from the company that makes the EpiPen emergency auto-injector a “well-defined industry tactic to keep costs high through a complex shell game.”
The sheer number of senators – 19 Democrats plus independent Sen. Bernie Sanders – represents a ratcheting-up of the stakes over the dramatic price increases of the emergency epinephrine product from Mylan NV. Mylan has sought recently to quell criticism by announcing discount programs and, on Monday, other plans soon to offer a generic version at half price.
Mylan has faced a backlash from Congress, as well as from parents of children with severe and life-threatening allergies, over its nearly 550% list-price increase over eight years. Since it acquired the rights to the EpiPen in late 2007, Mylan has increased the list price of a two-pack to $608.61.
In a letter Tuesday to Mylan chief executive Heather Bresch, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and colleagues described Mylan’s discount programs as “short-term co-pay assistance for expensive drugs,” but noted that “insurance companies, the government and employers still bear the burden of these excessive prices.”
The higher insurance and government costs, the senators wrote, “are eventually passed on to consumers in the form of higher premiums.” They added that the generic price that will be offered by Mylan “is still three times higher than the cost of the branded EpiPen in 2007.”
Mylan didn’t immediately comment on the letter or on the broader pricing dispute.
The company has, however, offered to provide more financial help to patients, covering their out-of-pocket costs up to $300, up from the previous $100. It said it will also expand the number of low-income families eligible for subsidies. On Monday, Mylan said it will offer a generic version of its product for $300. Despite the discount programs, the senators wrote to Ms. Bresch, “you did not, however, agree to lower the price of brand-name EpiPens.”
EpiPens, which are jabbed through the skin to administer epinephrine, are designed to counteract severe reactions such as those from food allergies and bee stings. In such emergencies, the immediate injection of epinephrine can open airways and restore a struggling patient’s ability to breathe.