— -- Mylan Pharmaceuticals CEO Heather Bresch defended her company’s pricing of its popular EpiPen during a hearing before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform this afternoon.
"Price and access exist in a balance, and we believe we have struck that balance," Bresch said, explaining that, under Mylan, access to the EpiPen product had expanded dramatically.
But her defense was greeted warily by members of Congress, who grilled her on several topics, including EpiPen's profits and her salary increases as head of Mylan.
In his opening statement today, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., accused Mylan of increasing the price "for no discernible reason other than to get filthy rich at the expense of our constituents," and characterized the company's business model as corrupt.
"After Mylan takes our punches, they will fly back to their mansions in their private jets and laugh all the way to the bank while our constituents suffer, file for bankruptcy, and watch their children get sicker, and in some cases die," Cummings, a ranking committee member, said.
Several members of Congress expressed dismay at Bresch's salary, which increased 671 percent to $18.9 million in 2015.
"What have you done to earn a 671 percent increase? What have you done?" Democratic Rep. Eleanor Norton, a D.C. delegate, asked Bresch.
"I would say saving the U.S. 180 billion dollars," she replied, without explanation.
Rep. Jimmy Duncan, R-Tenn., said, "No one can really deserve 18 million dollars a year."
Bresch repeatedly faulted the health care system for failing to show how revenue from the EpiPen is distributed, saying that Mylan executives receive no undue financial benefits.
"I truly believe the story got ahead of the facts because of the complexity of the pharmaceutical industry," Bresch said during the hearing.
Mylan has faced increased scrutiny for the price of its signature product, a portable auto-injecting device for emergency treatment of severe allergic reactions. The price of an EpiPen two-pack has risen from about $100 in 2009 to around $600 today, according to medical literature and various pharmacies across the nation.
"You virtually have a monopoly and you’ve used it to your advantage," Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., told Bresch. "But it's at the expense of people who need it."
Bresch is the daughter of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. USA Today recently reported that Manchin’s wife and Bresch’s mother, Gayle Manchin, had started an effort to have EpiPens placed in schools across the United States, which may have increased their popularity in school settings, allegations Bresch flatly denied today.
"People may want to criticize Mylan,” she said. “I certainly thought it was a very cheap shot to bring my mother into this.”