EpiPen Maker Mylan Spiked Generic Drug Prices Too

| by Nik Bonopartis
Heather BreschHeather Bresch

A Netherlands-based pharmaceutical company is the target of widespread outrage for imposing massive hikes on the prices of life-saving medications while its CEO -- the daughter of a sitting U.S. senator -- has enjoyed an almost 700 percent rise in compensation.

Drug company Mylan sells the EpiPen, which is used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions. EpiPens now sell for five times as much as they did in 2008, NBC News reported, with packages of two pens going for $600.

But it's not just the EpiPens that have seen astronomical hikes. Ursodiol, a generic drug used to dissolve gall stones in patients as an alternative to surgery, has seen a 542 percent price hike, according to NBC. The cost of metoclopramide, a drug used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease, has inflated by 444 percent.

And the generic drug tolterodine, described as one of Mylan's best sellers, is now 56 percent more expensive than it was last year, according to Wells Fargo analysts. Tolterodine is used to treat overactive bladders and is often prescribed to people who feel the urge to urinate too often.

In the meantime, Mylan CEO Heather Bresch has enjoyed a 671 percent increase in compensation since 2007, a separate NBC story reported. Bresch earned $2,453,456 in 2007 and earned $18,931,068 in 2015. Mylan was a U.S.-based company until 2015, when it incorporated in the Netherlands in order to decrease its taxes.

Bresch was involved in an earlier scandal, when it was revealed in 2008 that she didn't complete the coursework for her Master of Business Administration degree from West Virginia University.

Bresch and Mylan have already caught the attention of some lawmakers. On August 22, Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote a letter to Bresch saying he's "concerned that the substantial price increase could limit access to a much-needed medication."

Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota have also taken action, urging Mylan to reduce prices on EpiPens, while Kobuchar has called for a probe into the price hikes, according to NBC.

Complicating matters is the fact that Bresch is the daughter of Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia.

Bresch isn't the only pharmaceutical CEO to catch the attention of lawmakers. In 2015, the FBI arrested Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli, who famously hiked the price of a life-saving pill by more than 5,000 percent. Shkreli is awaiting trial in the case.

In an August 25 appearance on CNBC, Bresch tried to do damage control, but couldn't explain the enormous price increases for her company's drugs despite several opportunities.

"No one's more frustrated than me," she said.

Bresch blamed the price hikes on "manufacturing the product, distributing the product, enhancing the product, investing."

But Rodney Whitlock of the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing, said companies like Mylan aren't pouring more money into existing drugs.

"It's the everyday drugs that are going up by amounts that are just hard to conceptualize why," Whitlock said. "These drugs aren't improving. They're the same drugs approved by the FDA. They're not getting better. But the prices are going up extensively more than inflation."

Sources: NBC News (2) (3), CNBC, Bloomberg / Photo credit: University of Southern California

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