- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The maker of EpiPen tried to cool Congress’ ire over the skyrocketing cost of its life-saving injector by offering discounts and an in-house generic version, but lawmakers only appear to be turning up the heat.

Mylan Pharmaceuticals scrambled to mollify congressional critics who blasted the company’s decision to hike the price of its epinephrine auto-injector, which helps people with severe allergies stave off anaphylactic shock, from about $100 in 2009 to more than $600 today.

The company said customers with high out-of-pockets costs could get a $300 coupon, cutting the cost in half, and then it authorized a generic version that will retail for $300.

But Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent, and 19 Senate Democrats doubled down on their criticism Tuesday, saying the discounts amounted to a “complex shell game” that drug makers play.

“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. In turn, those costs are eventually passed on to consumers in the form of higher premiums,” they wrote to Mylan CEO Heather Bresch, who is the daughter of Sen. Joe Manchin, West Virginia Democrat.

The senators doubted whether Mylan will make its own generic as widely available as an independent competitor would, and noted the generic price is still three times what the EpiPen cost in 2007.

The senators also shot new critiques at the company, accusing the Pennsylvania-based company of moving its tax address to the Netherlands in a “corporate inversion” designed to “to avoid paying its fair share of corporate taxes.”

They said Ms. Bresch’s own compensation, meanwhile, increased from a reported $2.4 million in 2007 to $18.9 million in 2015.

Ms. Bresch has blamed the broader health care system for the dustup, saying consumers are feeling financial pain because of a shift toward high-deductible insurance plans that force consumers to pay for drugs out of their own pocket, even as they pay premiums, too. She also said middle men increase the cost of providing the auto-injectors to consumers, so Mylan gets less than half of the $608 list price.

Lawmakers say they still want to see that price go down.

“Some Americans who are unable to afford this cost increase have resorted to carrying expired EpiPens — or carry no EpiPens at all,” the senators wrote. “Emergency medical responders, meanwhile, have reported injecting epinephrine using manual syringes — a less expensive but more difficult, and thus more dangerous, method of treating anaphylaxis.”

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