Under fire for aggressively hiking the price of the EpiPen device, Mylan Pharmaceuticals has now lost an influential advocate: Sarah Jessica Parker.
The actress said on her verified Instagram account Thursday that she has ended her relationship as a paid spokeswoman for the drug maker “as a direct result” of the price increases. Parker wrote that she is “disappointed, saddened and deeply concerned by Mylan’s actions” and called on the company to “take swift action to lower the cost to be more affordable for whom it is a life-saving necessity.”
Parker has been the celebrity face since May of an unbranded ad campaign funded by Mylan to raise awareness of about the risks of anaphylaxis. The EpiPen, which has gone up in price by 400 percent since 2007, is the dominant treatment for the life-threatening allergic reaction.
Parker has cast her advocacy as deeply personal: Her 13-year-old son, James Wilkie Broderick, is severely allergic to peanuts. In one TV appearance, she said he “has two epinephrine auto-injectors. And he always has them on his person. Always, always, always.”
Drug makers often use unbranded campaigns to promote their products without mentioning them by name. One advantage: Image-conscious celebrities are more willing to tie themselves to a campaign focused on raising awareness of a health condition, as opposed to promoting a product.
On Thursday, for instance, the drug maker Shire announced that actress Jennifer Aniston will serve as a spokeswoman for an unbranded ad campaign around dry eye — a condition that Shire just happens to have a new drug to treat.
Mylan’s unbranded campaign includes directing patients to websites that offer general information on allergies and send those who want more details about treatment to an EpiPen branded site.
Parker didn’t say in her statement when she ended the deal, but Mylan’s unbranded ad campaign had been posting on Twitter about Parker as recently as last week. Her announcement follows widespread public outrage and high-profile criticism of the company from Hillary Clinton, the American Medical Association, and members of Congress.
Mylan did not immediately return requests for comment. Neither did Parker’s publicist.
Read Parker’s full statement below:
Mylan raising prices on Epipen is not a new development. To be a spokesperson for them and to suddenly say that you found out they raised prices is shallow. Do your homework before becoming a spokesperson and don’t suddenly jump off in feigned outrage when the noise and heat get too high.
A price history of EpiPen notes that in April 2001, the price of an EpiPen package was $75.80. The device then had a series of 3 percent and 4 percent price increases until 2008, when it was acquired by Mylan.
The company kept the price increases to just 5 percent in 2008 and early 2009, but in October 2009 it raised the price by 20 percent. Then, over the next four years, Mylan increased EpiPen’s price by 10 percent eight separate times.
In November 2013, Mylan hiked EpiPen’s price by 15 percent, and then did so five more times through May of this year.
As of Tuesday, a package of two EpiPen auto-injectors was selling for $614.07 through a membership warehouse with a free coupon that patients had to download, according to the GoodRx online drug price comparison website. The price was $616 with a coupon at Kroger Pharmacy, $630.96 at Target and $633.66 at Walgreens.
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