Pharmaceutical company Mylan has offered a sizeable discount and financial assistance to families who purchase its increasingly expensive product, the life-saving EpiPen.
Critics say the olive branch is too little, too late.
Mylan sparked public outrage when EpiPen purchasers with high deductibles or without health insurance discovered the price of a two-pack of the auto injectors now cost $600.
EpiPens inject epinephrine, a medicine that reverses the life-threatening effects of certain allergic reactions. While the price of a two-pack was $100 in 2008, Mylan has incrementally ratcheted up the price by nearly 500 percent since 2009, USA TODAY reports.
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In addition, the price of EpiPens for insurers and employers has risen by 150 percent in the last three years.
The controversy over the price hike resulted in a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers demanding an investigation into Mylan, with several writing to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ask why alternatives to EpiPen have not been approved for the market.
Mylan does not have any real competitor in the epinephrine auto injector market, and therefore has a monopoly on the life-saving product.
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On Aug. 25, Mylan announced that it would help alleviate the outrageous out-of-pocket cost of EpiPens by providing patients with a $300 savings card, which would cover half the cost of a two-pack, Reuters reports.
The pharmaceutical company will also raise the eligibility for its patient assistance program, meaning that families making up to $97,200 will not face any out of pocket costs.
“No one’s more frustrated than me,” Mylan CEO Heather Bresch told CNBC when asked about the price hike on Aug. 25. “Everybody should be frustrated.”
However, Mylan will not be lowering the $600 cost of an EpiPen two-pack.
“Had we reduced the list price, I couldn’t ensure that everyone who needs EpiPen gets one,” Bresch said. “So we went around the system. That’s what we announced today.”
The ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, blasted Mylan’s announcement, calling it a stunt.
“Offering a meager discount only after widespread bipartisan criticism is exactly the same tactic used by drug companies across the industry to distract from their exorbitant price increases, as our investigation has shown repeatedly,” Cummings said in a statement. “Nobody is buying this PR move any more.”
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has also expressed dissatisfaction with Mylan’s announcement, urging the company to lower the price.
Clinton campaign spokesman Tyrone Gayle statedm “Since there is no apparent justification for the price increase, Mylan should immediately lower the overall price of EpiPens.”
Leonard Saltz, chief of gastrointestinal oncology for the New York Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, issued a statement blasting Mylan and other pharmaceutical companies that raise drug prices for profit, according to USA TODAY.
“We have to stop pretending this is a surprise,” Saltz said. “This sort of price gauging has become persistent and routine in the pharmaceutical industry,… It is driving up health care costs, which is bad for the economy, but more importantly, is bad for patients.”