EpiPen manufacturer Mylan might have broken the cardinal rule of the pharmaceutical industry: be greedy, just not too greedy. This is not a rule based in altruism; rather it is a function of self-preservation. Make as much money as you can without bringing any undue attention onto yourself from either the general public or, in the worst of cases, the United States Congress.
Since acquiring the rights to manufacture EpiPens in 2007, Mylan has increased the price of the life saving devices by over 500 times the 2007 price. Company profits and executive rewards have soared while millions of parents across the country wonder how they’re going to pay for something that could, in the worst case scenario, save the lives of their children.
EpiPens are used by those that suffer severe, life threatening allergic reactions to everything from bee stings to peanut exposure. The device delivers a self-administered dose of epinephrine that can stabilize the patient until they can get medical attention. Notoriously cheap to produce, the EpiPen quickly became the default device for doctors to prescribe and no significant competitor to the EpiPen has ever emerged.
When Mylan instituted another price hike earlier this year just before back to school season, parents had finally had enough. Outrage was voiced, primarily through social media campaigns, loud enough that Mylan’s pricing policies are now under the microscope of the United States Congress.
20 Democratic Senators have sent a letter to Mylan demanding answers to a series of questions related to EpiPen pricing and whether the company has engaged in price gouging. While manufacturing costs have certainly risen since 2007 when Mylan acquired production rights, they have not risen at anywhere near the rate of the EpiPen price increase. Congress would also like to know how much of Mylan’s revenue comes from those on federally subsidized health care programs.
EpiPen customers have resorted to carrying expired doses or not carrying the injectors at all, causing Senate Republicans to join in the outcry. Senator Fred Upton, chair of the panel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee looking into Mylan pricing, says that “EpiPens are a critical and often only option for saving kids from the brink of death during severe allergic reactions. And the soaring costs that patients are now facing for EpiPen Auto-Injectors is cause for alarm.”
Notably absent from the list of signatories to the letter was Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia. Manchin’s daughter is Mylan CEO Heather Bresch. Ms. Bresch made $18.9 million last year.