Congressional lawmakers are locking horns with generic drug giant Mylan (MYL) over the company’s price hike for the EpiPen, a flagship device used to counteract deadly allergies whose price has exploded more than 400% since 2008. And at least one senator is calling for a Federal Trade Commission probe into the firm’s practices.
The EpiPen has a virtual lock on the U.S. market with about a 90% share in the space and few legitimate competitors to speak of. Its position in the food allergy business has given Mylan, a global pharmaceutical with about a $25 billion market cap, wide leeway to raise prices however it wants to—especially since customers have severely limited alternate options and must refill their two-pack injector supplies every year.
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar on Monday called for an official investigation by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) into the price hike.
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“I write to request the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigate whether Mylan Pharmaceuticals has violated the antitrust laws regarding the sale of its epinephrine auto-injector, EpiPen,” she wrote. “Many Americans, including my own daughter, rely on this life-saving product to treat severe allergic reactions.”
Klobuchar isn’t the only lawmaker calling for hearings—on either side of the aisle. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa issued a missive to Mylan CEO Heather Bresch on Monday which laid out the consequences of the price hike in personal terms.
“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,” wrote Grassley. “From other Iowans I have heard concerns about the cost of EpiPens and the need to replace them once a year when they expire. The high cost has also caused some first responders to consider making their own kits with epinephrine vials and syringes.”
Connecticut’s Senator Richard Blumenthal and former Democratic presidential contender Senator Bernie Sanders have also called out Mylan in recent days and demanded investigations and hearings.
Mylan has come under enough scrutiny for the price hike that it felt compelled to issue a press release on the matter Monday. The company emphasized that many patients qualify for its patient access program, which significantly reduces the EpiPen’s price through coupons, and laid the blame for consumers’ inability to afford the device to the increasing popularity of high-deductible health plans.
“With the current changes in the healthcare insurance landscape, an increasing number of people and families have enrolled in high deductible health plans, and deductible amounts continue to rise,” wrote the company. “This current and ongoing shift has presented new challenges for consumers, and now they are bearing more of the cost. This new change to the industry is not an easy challenge to address, but we recognize the need and are committed to working with customers and payors to find solutions to meet the needs of the patients and families we serve.”