WASHINGTON, Aug. 30 — In a letter sent today to the CEO of pharmaceutical company Mylan, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and 19 Democratic senators expressed their serious concerns about the company’s recent price hikes for the life-saving EpiPen Auto-Injector. The senators raised questions about Mylan’s decision to expand its patient assistance program, which allows the company to sharply increase prices while passing the cost of these increases onto insurance companies and consumers, and to introduce an authorized generic EpiPen at a price three times more than it cost in 2007.
“The EpiPen…has become so exorbitantly expensive that access to this life saving combination product is in jeopardy for many Americans,” the senators wrote. “Mylan’s near monopoly on the epinephrine auto-injector market has allowed you to increase prices well beyond those that are justified by any increase in the costs of manufacturing the EpiPen.”
The letter notes that in response to public concern about the rising cost of the EpiPen, Mylan has expanded its current accessibility programs -- including increasing the maximum value of its savings card from $100 to $300 – although the company would not reduce the EpiPen’s sticker price. The senators explain, “These changes will help some customers who are struggling to afford EpiPens. Your discount programs, however, represent a well-defined industry tactic to keep costs high through a complex shell game.”
“When patients receive short-term co-pay assistance for expensive drugs, they may be insulated from price hikes, but insurance companies, the government, and employers still bear the burden of these excessive prices. In turn, those costs are eventually passed on to consumers in the form of higher premiums, but the drug company is no longer in the spotlight. Because couponing can massively inflate costs, this practice has been outlawed by the government in Medicare and Medicaid. But couponing practices are perfectly legal for commercial insurance and Affordable Care Act exchange coverage.”
The senators requested that Mylan answer a series of questions to provide additional information about the impact that the EpiPen price hike and the associated changes in Mylan’s patient assistance program and other accessibility programs will have on consumers and on taxpayers.
In addition to Sanders, the letter was signed by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).
Read a PDF copy of the senators’ letter here.