— -- A U.S. senator whose daughter is the CEO of Mylan Pharmaceuticals has weighed in on the onslaught of criticism over the company’s pricing of its popular EpiPen, even as Mylan today promised to expand a discount program for the anti-allergy medication.
"I am aware of the questions my colleagues and many parents are asking, and frankly, I share their concerns about the skyrocketing prices of prescription drugs,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., said today in a statement. “Today I heard Mylan's initial response, and I am sure Mylan will have a more comprehensive and formal response to those questions.
"I look forward to reviewing their response in detail and working with my colleagues and all interested parties to lower the price of prescription drugs and to continue to improve our health care system."
His daughter Heather Bresch is the chief executive officer of Mylan Pharmaceuticals, which makes the EpiPen, by far the most popular epinephrine injector on the market. It is used to help counteract life-threatening allergic reactions. The EpiPen’s average wholesale price has risen 500 percent (not adjusting for inflation) since 2009, setting off widespread criticism.
Mylan, which has defended the pricing, released a statement today saying it is taking steps to reduce the cost of the EpiPen for uninsured or underinsured users by, in part, providing a savings card to offset the cost by up to $300.
The company has come under fire by members of Congress and the American Medical Association for the cost of the drug, which can now be about $600, up from approximately $100 in 2009.
It said nothing in its statement to suggest it would be lowering the overall cost of the EpiPen.
"We recognize the significant burden on patients from continued, rising insurance premiums and being forced increasingly to pay the full list price for medicines at the pharmacy counter. Patients deserve increased price transparency and affordable care, particularly as the system shifts significant costs to them. However, price is only one part of the problem that we are addressing with today's actions," Bresch said in the company's statement.
"All involved must also take steps to help meaningfully address the U.S. health care crisis, and we are committed to do our part to drive change in collaboration with policymakers, payers, patients and health care professionals," she continued.
The company said that it will issue a savings card to cover up to $300 for the EpiPen two-pack — 50 percent on the full retail price — and that it will change the eligibility for its patient assistance program to double the number of people covered.
But a $300 expense is still 200 percent higher than the approximate cost in 2009 of $100. Additionally, it's not clear whether families will be able to receive multiple cards for multiple EpiPens.
Allergy doctors often recommend getting multiple EpiPen packs for young children so that they have easy access to the medication at school, home and other places they spend time. It has a shelf life of about a year.
Mylan defended the price increase for families as a consequence of more people joining high-deductible health plans.
"As the health insurance environment has evolved, driven by the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, patients and families enrolled in high deductible health insurance plans who are uninsured or who pay cash at the pharmacy have faced higher costs for their medicine," company officials said in a statement today.
Members of the Senate Special Committee on Aging Wednesday called on Mylan to brief Congress about the price increase of the medication. They joined other members of Congress, including Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who have written to Mylan about their concerns.
A Mylan spokeswoman told ABC News Wednesday, "We have reached out to every member of Congress who has sent us a letter, including Sen. Blumenthal, and we look forward to meeting with them and responding to their questions as soon as possible."
The full list of the steps Mylan is taking:
- For patients in health plans who face higher out-of-pocket costs, the company is providing immediate relief by offering a savings card for up to $300.
- Mylan is doubling eligibility for its patient assistance program to 400 percent of the federal poverty level. This means a family of four making up to $97,200 would pay nothing out of pocket for EpiPens.
- It will continue to offer the EpiPen4Schools program, which has provided at least 700,000 free EpiPens to schools.
- Mylan is opening a pathway so that patients can order EpiPens directly from the company, reducing their cost.