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EpiPen's Maker Tries to Get Out of a Price Hike Quagmire

A discount? A generic version? Pharmaceutical giant Mylan is seeking to appease customers and politicians angry over it continually hiking the price of its combo drug and device used to treat severe allergic reactions.

Maureen Kingsley

EpiPen

The headlines, screaming from every major news outlet and dominating social-media newsfeeds last week, were impossible to miss: EpiPen manufacturer and marketer Mylan increased the emergency-epinephrine auto-injector device's retail price by roughly 500% in nine years, while Mylan CEO Heather Bresch benefited from a hefty pay raise of about 600% during that same time period.

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From around $100 for an EpiPen two-pack in 2007, the retail price rose to approximately $600 for a two-pack in 2016. Meanwhile, CEO Bresch's total compensation increased from about $2.5 million to nearly $19 million during that time. Mylan's stock price followed suit, rising from $13.29 per share in 2007 to a 52-week high of $55.51 as of Monday.

Some reporting the story on television and commenting on social media took the opportunity to frame it as a classic good-versus-evil story, with Bresch playing the role of greedy pharmaceutical villain (including comparisons drawn between her and the notorious Martin Shkreli of Daraprim-price-hike infamy) and innocent schoolchildren and other EpiPen users portrayed as her victims. Adding to the scandal, and widely reported, was Bresch's family ties to government: her father, Joe Manchin, is the senior U.S. Senator from West Virginia.

Mylan Responds

Bresch and her company, however, appear to be avoiding Shkreli's mistakes. Shkreli came across as scornful of criticism and rather unmoved while defending his actions regarding the sudden inflated price of Turing Pharmaceuticals' anti-parasitic drug Daraprim, used to treat toxoplasmosis in pregnant women, AIDS patients, and cancer patients. Shkreli eneded up resigning from his chief post at the pharma company and was uncooperative while appearing before a U.S. congressional hearing,

Contrast Shkreli's performance to Bresch and Mylan. They appear to be responding to the public outcry over EpiPen in some tangible, conciliatory ways. In a press statement released Monday, Mylan announced that its U.S. subsidiary will launch the first generic version of the EpiPen auto-injector at a list price of $300 per two-pack carton, "which represents a discount of more than 50% to the Mylan list price, or wholesale acquisition cost, of the branded medicine," the statement reads. The authorized generic will be identical to the branded product, according to the statement, in both device functionality and drug formulation. CEO Bresch is quoted as saying about the new generic version that "because of the complexity and opaqueness of today's branded pharmaceutical supply chain and the increased shifting of costs to patients as a result of high-deductible health plans, we determined that bypassing the brand system in this case and offering an additional alternative was the best option. Generic drugs have a long, proven track record of delivering significant savings to both patients and the overall healthcare system." Mylan expects to launch the generic medical device in several weeks.

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As for the branded EpiPen product itself, Mylan has not rescinded that $600 list price but did announce last week that it is reducing the patient cost for the device through the use of a reusable coupon (dubbed "My EpiPen Savings Card") that will cover up to $300 of the $600 price of the EpiPen two-pack for eligible customers. Information about the card is available at Mylan's Website. "For patients who were previously paying the full amount of the company's list price for EpiPen, this effectively reduces their out-of-pocket cost exposure by 50%" a Mylan press release reads.

Additionally, the company is purportedly "doubling the eligibility for its patient assistance program," which will eliminate out-of-pocket costs for uninsured and under-insured patients and families.  

Maureen Kingsley is a contributor to Qmed

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[Image courtesy of Mylan]

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