By Sarah Faulkner
UPDATED August 24, 2016, with comment from Hilary Clinton.
Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) are pressing Mylan (NSDQ:MYL) for information on its 400% price increase for the EpiPen epinephrine auto-injector, which went from $100 in 2008 to more than $500 despite stable manufacturing costs.
The pressure comes amid a nationwide discussion about price-gouging, after Turing Pharmaceuticals came under fire for raising the price of Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 a pill.
Klobuchar asked the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether the company violated antitrust laws and called on the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing.
“Although the antitrust laws do not prohibit price gouging, regardless of how unseemly it may be, they do prohibit the use of unreasonable restraints of trade to facilitate or protect a price increase,” Klobuchar wrote. “While the Senate Judiciary Committee should explore both the potential consumer and antitrust violations that could be involved here, I ask that within 90 days you provide any guidance or policy proposals to make these markets more competitive and eliminate the ability of some drug manufacturers to reap windfall profits at the expense of consumers who need access to life-saving products.”
Grassley, chairman of the Senate judiciary panel, went straight to Mylan CEO Heather Bresch, asking for any analyses Mylan conducted to determine the device’s price and information on the company’s advertising budget in the 1st half of 2016 and all of 2015. Their response should come no later than Sept. 6, Grassley wrote. Grassley cited many discussions with constituents about the issue, specifically a father who had to pay more than $500 to fill his daughter’s prescription.
“In the case of EpiPens, I am concerned that the substantial price increase could limit access to a much-needed medication,” he wrote. “In addition, it could create an unsafe situation for patients as people, untrained in medical procedures, are incentivized to make their own kits from raw materials.”
Mylan maintained that it’s worked to raise awareness and expand treatment for the millions of people that need an EpiPen. In 2015, the company claimed, “80% of commercially insured patients using the EpiPen Savings Card received their EpiPen for $0.” But patients covered by state or federally funded healthcare don’t qualify for the card.
“With 43 million Americans at risk for anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening reaction, Mylan is committed to serving the severe allergy community and continues to invest in EpiPen Auto-Injector in traditional and unconventional ways to address patient needs,” the company said.
Presidential candidate Hilary Clinton (D) today called on Mylan to voluntarily drop the EpiPen’s price.
“That’s outrageous – and it’s just the latest troubling example of a company taking advantage of its consumers,” Clinton said in a statement. “It’s wrong when drug companies put profits ahead of patients, raising prices without justifying the value behind them.”
(Material from Reuters was used in this report).