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For all intents and purposes, California Governor Jerry Brown held his nose Friday as he signed a bill that allows state agencies and businesses to keep EpiPen devices on hand for emergencies.

While Brown readily acknowledged that EpiPen is a lifesaver for people with allergic reactions, he simultaneously issued two letters — one to the California State Assembly and the other to US Senate and House leaders — to complain about “predatory pricing” by the manufacturer, Mylan Pharmaceuticals.

“I cannot take this action without registering my strong objection to the bill sponsor’s recently reported pricing maneuvers,” he wrote in one of the letters in which he referred to a successful lobbying campaign by Mylan to urge states to make EpiPen widely available.

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He noted that, even as Mylan sponsored such bills, the company was raising the price for a two-pack of EpiPen. It now costs $608, a 548 percent jump over the past decade. “State government cannot stop unconscionable price increases, but it can shed light on such rapacious corporate behavior,” he wrote.

Brown also made a point of writing that Mylan raised the total compensation for its Chief Executive, Heather Bresch, to nearly $19 million, a 600 percent increase, during the same period of time.

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His remarks mirror the coast-to-coast outrage over EpiPen pricing, which has become the latest symbol of anger over pharmaceutical pricing. The issue has become so heated the cost of medicines is now a regular talking point in the presidential campaign.

As for Mylan, several congressional lawmakers are investigating its pricing and some are urging the US Federal Trade Commission to conduct an antitrust probe. Bresch, in fact, is scheduled to testify on Wednesday before the US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

The EpiPen episode, however, is symptomatic of a larger and more complicated debate — trying to balance a need for affordable medicines with the pricing that the pharmaceutical industry argues is required to underwrite further innovation.

For the moment, drug makers appear to be losing the debate. Many companies have charged that Mylan and others — notably, Valeant Pharmaceuticals and Turing Pharmaceuticals, which was run by Martin Shkreli — are outliers that simply buy old drugs and jack up prices to sky-high levels.

But the argument has largely fallen on deaf ears as data regularly emerges showing how the largest brand-name drug makers have often raised prices by double-digit amounts on a fairly consistent basis, moves that undermine their contention.

A recent survey of about 3,000 brand-name prescription drugs found that prices more than doubled for 60 medicines and at least quadrupled for 20 others since December 2014, according to DRX, a market research firm that ran the numbers for Bloomberg News.

In response to the controversy, a bipartisan group of lawmakers last week introduced a bill that would require drug makers to justify their pricing and provide a breakdown of their costs before raising prices on certain products by more than 10 percent.

The goal of the legislation, which is essentially identical to bills that have been introduced in more than a dozen states over the past year, is to gain some transparency into industry pricing and, presumably, force companies to take more modest price hikes.

The bill was proposed just days after Allergan Chief Executive Brent Saunders issued a manifesto in which he promised his company would hold price hikes to single-digit percentage increases, in most cases, and take other steps to blunt rising costs. So far, no other company has agreed to follow suit.

  • Tell the truth this isn’t really predatory pricing tell the truth is isn’t really predator pricing when it comes to the ideal logical stands is that we in the population has tank if we are creating synthetic usefull medication, then we’d have to force the economy to use more natural means; winning the price of the chemical man made product that gone up. After the depletion of money in a rich man’s pocket the economy would have more access to what would have been there if the money was available to all the population. I personally use Organix one acne prevention process I have used was coconut oil others such as products containing snake venom and other sorts will be more expensive given the fact that it’s more risky. By increasing acne or any product price U for the economy to seek other means if something is too high for them too get then they’re going to have to divert to the original means in solving original problems. In the field of sociology this in my opinion would be redundant Theory but it would be necessary individually speaking. If one man’s price goes up for another then the others price may go up and down depending on who they are or what they are. If I say to someone who’s poor I’ll sell them a bottle of acne for $10 that’s individually speaking but if I saw a different guy who owns billions of money making Industries I’m not going to sell it to him for the same price I’ma sell the same tube for the 10 grand bias or not the system works this way butt contradicting this would be only to say if the person is doing this only because they seek profit if not profit they would be seeking to make it more available and more unstable II build rural areas prices should drop in areas where prices should rise these would be richer communities. I’m not rich

  • Hi Ed. Your last paragraph contradicts the assertion that drug makers are “losing the debate”. As you state nary a single drug maker has stepped forward in support of Brent Saunders’ pledge to hold the line on costs. I concede that drug makers are losing the battle in the court of public opinion, but public opinion doesn’t count on the balance sheet. The only voice that really matters to the C suite denizens is that of the shareholders, and thus far they have been silent.

    • Hi Pharmvet1,

      That’s a fair point. At the end of the day, shareholder views will likely matter more to the c-suite than the court of public opinion, unless some sort of legislation shows signs of being passed.

      However, as Richard Evans of SSR wrote in a note today, “Concerns over potential federal intervention in US prescription drug pricing have weighed heavily on drug and biotech stocks’ valuations for nearly a year.”

      So I suppose the real issue is whether these periodic hearings – generics, Valeant, Turing and now Mylan – are passing moments or lead to anything more substantive.

      The potential seems greater than before so, if only on that basis, I would contend drug makers are not winning this debate.

      Cheers
      ed

  • Some news which might help to the financial burden: EpiPenIns, a membership based, insurance like set-up, has launched the website https://epipeninsurance.com – Clearly, born out of frustration as well as passion, they offer a replacement and/or compensation for used EpiPens. They even offer an ´out of date´ replacement which is one of the biggest financial issues for anybody.

    • The reason so many people require “Epipen insurance” in the first place is that they buy bare bones insurance policies with either no drug coverage or a high deductible policy. If they shelled out the money for a low deductible policy they would pay a bit more but in the end would lower the price point for their pen.

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