Mylan CEO Heather Bresch, whose $600 EpiPens forced untold numbers of American families to sacrifice financially to afford the live-saving devices, says she believes her company was selling the auto-injector at "a fair price."
Bresch made the jaw-dropping statement on Sept. 21, when she appeared before Congress and took heat from both Republicans and Democrats.
Lawmakers told Bresch to come prepared with documents about her company's finances; she didn't, and said she was unable to answer specific questions as House members probed her on Mylan's alleged price gouging, raising the price of EpiPens from about $100 when the company first acquired the rights to the auto-injectors in 2007, to more than $600 by the summer of 2016.
Bresch blamed the health care system and insurance companies for the high price of EpiPens, deflecting criticism of her company for price-gouging, reports Fortune.
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“The system wasn’t intended to have people pay the full wholesale acquisition cost, and that’s what’s happening at an alarming rate.”
Mylan is accused of unfairly raising prices on many of its other medications, including seven other medications where prices were raised by 100 percent or more, according to a Wells Fargo analyst. But Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, pointed out that the EpiPen "generates 10 percent of [Mylan's] revenue," fueling pay raises for the company's top executives, who earned almost $300 million in compensation over the past five years.
From 2007, when Mylan first acquired the rights to the EpiPen, to 2015, Bresch's compensation increased from about $2.5 million to $18,931,068, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Bresch also holds a significant number of Mylan shares, and on Aug. 9 -- the same day Mylan issued its quarterly earnings report, and only a few weeks after an analyst warned of a potential controversy over Mylan's price hikes -- Bresch sold $5 million worth of her Mylan stock, The Guardian reported.
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Bresch is the daughter of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, who was also previously the governor of his home state of West Virginia. Manchin reportedly helped propel his daughter's career over the years and helped her through controversies, such as a scandal in 2008 when a newspaper learned Bresch hadn't earned a degree in business administration from West Virginia University.
Manchin reached out to the university's president -- an old friend and former business associate -- and administrators at the school subsequently added courses and grades to Bresch's transcript, backdating them so it looked like Bresch had earned the degree, the Chicago Tribune reported.
But it wasn't just Manchin who helped Bresch climb the corporate ladder and turn EpiPen into a billion-dollar profit stream for Mylan -- Bresch's mother, Gayle Manchin, became president of the National Association of State Boards of Education in 2012 and lobbied for the so-called "EpiPen Law" in 2013, which helped Mylan establish a monopoly in supplying auto-injectors to schools, USA Today reported.
Not everyone at Mylan continued to defend the company's practices. In late August, company spokeswoman Kelly Rudnicki resigned, telling the Guardian she "felt betrayed" by Mylan's price hikes.
“There is absolutely no way that I could align myself with a company that is really not taking care of its consumers,” Rudnicki said. “It was a very easy decision for me to make once I came to that conclusion.”