- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:


Aug. 26

The Times West Virginian of Fairmont on the rising cost of EpiPens:

Here’s the situation. And it doesn’t take someone deep into mathematical problems to solve it very quickly.

Nine years ago, a two-dose package of life-saving allergy-injection pens cost around $94. That price may have seemed high then, but keep reading.

In 2016, just nine years later, that two-dose package rose more than 600 per cent in price. They now cost more than $600 in the United States, according to some sources. GoodRx estimates the cash prices range from $728 to $840. And would you believe these auto-injectors contain about $1 worth of the product?

Who are these allergy-injection pens for? They could be for someone who suffered a bee or wasp sting. They could be for someone ill from eating food that contain nuts. Simple things that most people can eat and enjoy are deadly for others. That’s what these allergy injections are for.

EpiPens are a critical safeguard in case something goes wrong. Most of us don’t need them, but some people do.

The drug in EpiPen auto-injector is epinephrine. It constricts blood vessels to increase blood pressure, relaxes smooth muscles in the lungs to reduce wheezing and improve breathing, stimulates the heart (increases heart rate) and works to reduce hives and swelling that may occur around the face and lips.

These life-saving drug are produced by Mylan, which has a location in Morgantown. The CEO of Mylan is Heather Bresch, who happens to be the daughter of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and whose salary since 2007 to 2015 has jumped from about $2.5 million to $19 million.

Sen. Manchin praised Mylan, among other companies, earlier this month for donating money to help build homes in flood-ravaged West Virginia, but he didn’t have anything to say about the terrifically high price boost for these EpiPens.

Think about having to pay more than $600 for life-saving injection pens when that same medicine only cost $94 or less nine years ago.

We can’t blame the political leaders who, as Associated Press writer Jonathan Mattise described it, are crying foul on these ballooning prices.

“EpiPens are just the latest drugs to become cash cows for their distributors,” Alyssa Rosenberg wrote in The Washington Post. “The skyrocketing cost of the epinephrine injectors, which counteract a severe allergic attack, has been particularly grotesque for allergy sufferers like myself. Mylan has sent a clear message: If those of us with allergies want to live expansive, adventurous lives, doing things that are normal for other people but risky for us, the company is prepared to test just how much we’re willing to pay for that privilege.”

In a letter to Bresch Monday, Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut demanded for Mylan to drop the price. Blumenthal and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., are calling for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and a Federal Trade Commission investigation into possible antitrust violations at Mylan.

Instead of a price cut, Mylan said Thursday it was expanding programs that help people pay for EpiPens or give them out free. It doubled the limit for eligibility for its patient assistance program, so a family of four making up to $97,200 would pay nothing out of pocket. It also said it will offer $300 copay cards, up from the current $100 per-prescription savings.

One woman wrote that her grandson needs an EpiPen, but her parents can’t afford the $600 and don’t qualify for discount programs.

“They are both hard-working individuals that are drowning in debt from medical bills. $600 EpiPen costs for a lifesaving medication is just insane. If you saw what I saw the other day as my grandson struggled to breath, you would stop this greed and make it more affordable for normal people to survive. Shame on you.”

That’s right indeed. Shame on them. Shame on anyone responsible for these skyrocketing prices!

Online: https://www.timeswv.com/


Aug. 29

The Herald-Dispatch of Huntington on how grants help West Virginians:

In 1940, a half a million people worked in the coal mining industry in the United States, and 130,000 of those workers were in West Virginia.

Even though mechanization and above-ground extraction had dramatically reduced the employment to about 30,000 West Virginians by the mid-‘90s, the mining workforce has remained a big part of the Mountain State’s identity.

But the industry’s challenges, the changing energy landscape and regulatory climate have taken an even greater toll in recent years. West Virginia’s coal employment dropped to 14,000 in 2015, and more job losses have been reported this year.

State leaders will be working to hold onto the coal jobs that remain, but few are optimistic about bringing large numbers back. The need to find new job opportunities for workers in our region is not only real, but urgent.

This week, the Appalachian Regional Commission and other federal agencies announced $38.8 million in federal grants to groups in our region working on that “transition.” The investment is nothing on the scale of the $80 billion the government provided to the automotive industry over the past decade, but it is welcome assistance to the local efforts already under way.

The funding goes to a wide range of projects, and in a way, that is symbolic of the challenge that lies ahead. As one official put it, there is no silver bullet likely to recharge the Appalachian economy. It is going to take “a thousand silver BBs” - in other words, a lot of different things.

In the Huntington area, grants went to a job retraining program, local farm-to-table efforts and a study to identify viable industrial sites. Each of the projects aims to create new jobs in different ways.

One of the largest grants, more than $7 million, went to help launch a school of optometry at the University of Pikeville. It would be only the second optometry college in the Appalachian region, and organizers hope to graduate 60 optometrists within the first three years of the award.

Other grants are going to projects as diverse as business park infrastructure, airport construction, entrepreneurship education, innovation centers, tourism development and even expanding an existing cabinet manufacturing operation in Elkins, creating about 45 new jobs.

On one level, this is all a drop in the bucket. Appalachia lost about 23,000 coal jobs between 2011 and 2015, and these efforts are projected to create or retain about 3,400 jobs. But each is aimed at what our region needs most - new growth and new directions.

Online: https://www.herald-dispatch.com/


Aug. 31

The Charleston Gazette on President Obama’s POWER grants:

West Virginia got some welcome news last week. A round of President Obama’s POWER initiative grants will pour $16 million into infrastructure and entrepreneurship projects to help West Virginians get back to work.

It is money well spent and well-deserved. Just because the world is moving away from fossil fuels doesn’t mean communities whose livelihoods and economies were built around the coal industry should bear all the painful economic change and job loss on their own.

President Obama believes that, and enough members of Congress agreed. So plenty of elected officials were celebrating the much-needed money coming to these counties. Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Capito put out their own joint announcement.

And in this good news, they could not help but take a shot at the Obama administration: “Years of onerous regulations that have targeted our state have put many West Virginians out of work and hurt local communities,” Republican Sen. Capito said in their news release.

“West Virginia has been devastated by this administration’s harmful regulations and we must continue to fight to keep our coal jobs and to make sure every out-of-work coal miner has access to meaningful job opportunities,” Democrat Sen. Manchin said in the release.

That kind of talk might be an expected political sop for the senators’ industry friends and any voters they control, but it is poor leadership.

President Obama’s administration didn’t pull the plug on West Virginia’s coal industry. Coal demand is sliding down a long-predicted natural decline.

Federal regulations that keep more carbon dioxide out of the air and pollutants out of the water certainly add to the cost of producing a ton of coal, doubtlessly contributing to coal’s challenges when market conditions get rough for all the other reasons - played-out seams, easier Western sources, cheaper natural gas, for example.

But those same environmental regulations also protect the air that West Virginians breathe and the water that West Virginians need (and that the world increasingly wants). Those regulations address a climate change threat that is only expected to get worse in coming years.

Coalfield communities also suffer more pollution-related illnesses, so someone ought to keep the dust off their cars and out of their lungs. In short, those environmental regulations are for the good of West Virginians, too.

Perhaps if West Virginia leaders like Capito and Manchin had talked straight with their constituents on this issue for the last 10 years, fewer Southern West Virginians would have been in denial about the situation for all this time.

The coal jobs are going to disappear, whether people choose to protect their air and water or not. Why shouldn’t West Virginians have something left of their Almost Heaven when coal is done?

Sometimes, we wonder why President Obama bothers with places like West Virginia, which seem to give him nothing but grief, even when he is looking after the people’s needs and best interests. It’s because he is the bigger person.

Online: https://www.wvgazettemail.com/

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