WASHINGTON, D.C.: Mylan NV, the embattled manufacturer of EpiPens, said on Thursday it would help extreme allergy sufferers meet the costs of the life-saving devices after a five-fold price hike sparked outrage.
However, prominent US politicians, including Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, said that was not enough and demanded Mylan lower the devices’ price.
With a near-monopoly on the manufacture of the epinephrine injectors, Mylan said Thursday it would expand existing programs to defray out-of-pocket costs for many users.
But it declined to reduce the price after a pack of two of the devices soared to more than $600 from less than $100 in 2007, when Mylan bought the rights to the technology.
Allergy sufferers use the devices for the immediate treatment of life-threatening anaphylactic shocks arising from allergies.
“We have been a long-term, committed partner to the allergy community and are taking immediate action to help ensure that everyone who needs an EpiPen Auto-Injector gets one,” Mylan chief executive Heather Bresch said in a statement.
Pricing called ‘exorbitant’
The controversy made the company the latest healthcare-related firm to face angry public allegations of price-gouging. The American Medical Association on Wednesday called the EpiPen price “exorbitant.”
It also thrust Mylan into the pending US political contest, with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on Wednesday calling the company’s most recent price hike “outrageous” as it occurred just as allergic children prepared to return to school.
Under pressure, Mylan said Thursday it would double eligibility for patient assistance to EpiPen users, eliminating immediate out-of-pocket costs for the uninsured and under-insured.
It also said patients would be able to use a savings card to cover up to $300 of cost of the two-pack of EpiPens. A family of four with an annual income of up to $97,200 would pay nothing out of pocket for an injector, the company said. It also blamed insurance companies for requiring patients to pay an increasing share of the costs for medications.
But critics reacted harshly, calling for straightforward price cuts.
“Discounts for selected customers without lowering the overall price of EpiPens are insufficient because the excessive price will likely be passed on through higher insurance premiums,” said Clinton campaign spokesman Tyrone Gayle, adding that the company should lower the price “immediately.”
Republican Senator Chuck Grassley also said the company’s gestures did not go far enough, noting that Medicare, Medicaid and commercial insurers would still be liable for the full price.
Appearing on CNBC early Thursday, Bresch, herself the daughter of a US Senator, Democrat Joe Manchin, said prices had fallen on 600 Mylan products, but that commercial pressures drove the company’s pricing decisions.
“I’m running a business,” she said.
Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, whose daughter relies on EpiPen, has called on the Federal Trade Commission to launch an anti-trust investigation.
Klobuchar was one of a bi-partisan group of senators who this week also called on the Food and Drug Administration to answer questions on its process for approving alternatives to the EpiPen, which could help drive down prices.
Shares in Mylan were down nearly 2 percent at $42.40 in mid-afternoon trading, after having lost nearly 11 percent over two sessions after the furor broke out over EpiPen.