Udall Addresses Exorbitant Price Hike For EpiPen

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall 

From the Office of U.S. Sen. Tom Udall:

Mylan has increased cost of life-saving EpiPen more than 480 percent in seven years

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a  letter sent Tuesday to the CEO of the pharmaceutical company Mylan, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) joined 19 senators in expressing his serious concerns about the company’s recent significant price hikes for the EpiPen Auto-Injector. 

Mylan CEO Heather Bresch

Many children and adults who suffer from severe allergies use the EpiPen product to deliver a life-saving dose of epinephrine in the event of a life-threatening allergic reaction. Udall has heard from many New Mexico families whose doctors have told them to carry an EpiPen because of severe allergies but who are struggling to afford it. Mylan has increased the price of EpiPens in the United States by over 480 percent, from $103.50 for a set of two in 2009 to more than $608 today.

In their letter, the senators asked Mylan CEO Heather Bresch to answer several questions by Sept. 12 about how the company is responding to concerns that have been raised about the availability and price of the EpiPen. The company has introduced a patient assistance program, which has allowed it to sharply increase prices while passing the cost of these increases onto insurance companies and ultimately to consumers, while also announcing that it will offer an authorized generic EpiPen for about $300. The senators point out that although the generic is about half the cost of the name-brand, it is still unaffordable for many families. Meanwhile, the fact that Mylan can reduce the cost of the product raises further questions about why the brand-name is so expensive. 

The letter was led by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). In addition to Udall, it was signed by U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), 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.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

“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 senators noted that while Mylan’s recent changes, such as the patient assistance program and adding a generic, will help some customers, they “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,” the senators continued. “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.”

Read a PDF copy of the senators’ letter here.