Senators Scrutinize Mylan Over EpiPen’s U.S. Price Increases

  • Grassley asks drugmaker to provide information on pricing
  • Klobuchar calls for FTC to look into business practices

Two senior U.S. senators are examining Mylan NV’s price increases for the popular EpiPen allergy shot, with lawmakers saying the drugmaker’s practices may have limited competition and access to the treatment.

A EpiPen epinephrine auto-injector.
A EpiPen epinephrine auto-injector.
Photographer: Jon Elswick/AP Photo

Senator Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, asked the drugmaker to explain “a steep price increase in the product in recent years,” citing complaints from constituents who say they have to pay as much as $500 for one prescription. Grassley heads the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

“The substantial price increase could limit access to a much-needed medication,” Grassley wrote to Mylan Chief Executive officer Heather Bresch in an Aug. 22 letter. Mylan shares fell 1.6 percent to close at $47.90 in New York on Monday.

EpiPen is a self-administered injection of epinephrine, a drug that is used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions from bee stings, food allergies or other triggers. Since acquiring the drug in 2007, Mylan has raised the price several times, up from about $57 a shot when it first took over sales of the product, a review of pricing data by Bloomberg found. According to prescription drug price tracker GoodRx, the price of two auto-injector EpiPens is more than $600 today.

Promoting Use

Mylan has promoted use of EpiPen by getting the drug stocked for emergency use in schools and public places. It also stopped selling single EpiPens in favor of twin-packs in recent years.

In October of last year, Sanofi recalled its rival product, Auvi-Q epinephrine injection, because reports of device malfunctions and concerns that it wasn’t delivering the correct dose. In February, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had identified major deficiencies in its application for its own epinephrine injector. Those setbacks have helped Mylan dominate the market.

Mylan’s specialty division, which includes sales from EpiPen and some other smaller products, generated $1.2 billion in revenue in in 2015.

In a separate letter Monday, Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, asked the Federal Trade Commission to look into whether Mylan had done anything to deny competitors access to the market in order to keep raising prices. She pointed to a competitor product, Adrenaclick, that she said is less expensive but has only minimal sales.

QuickTake U.S. Drug Prices

Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat who sits on the Judiciary committee with Klobuchar and Grassley, demanded Mylan lower EpiPen’s price. “It is crucial that your product remains affordable for all Americans,” he said in a letter to the company.

Klobuchar Questions

Consumers say some insurers don’t cover Adrenaclick, according to Klobuchar, who urged the agency to look at whether Mylan used exclusionary contracts with insurers, distributors or pharmacies to prevent competition. Prices for a two-pack of Adrenaclick, according to GoodRx, range from about $142 to around $380, depending on the pharmacy.

The agency said it looks at cases where consumers could get hurt by a lack of competition.

“The commission takes seriously its obligation to take action where pharmaceutical companies have violated the antitrust laws and will continue to closely scrutinize drug market competition on consumers’ behalf,” Justin Cole, an FTC spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement.

Mylan spokeswoman Nina Devlin declined to comment specifically on the letters. The company says that it offers several programs to help people afford the drug.

“Ensuring access to epinephrine -- the only first-line treatment for anaphylaxis -- is a core part of our mission.”

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