Opinion Pieces

In Case You Missed It...Grothman Op-Ed: Mylan CEO should be ashamed of EpiPen prices

Washington, September 28, 2016 | Bernadette Green ((202) 225-2476)

The Hill
Mylan CEO Should be Ashamed of EpiPen Prices

By Congressman Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.)

Last week the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing on the skyrocketing price of life-saving Epinephrine Auto-Injectors, better known as the EpiPen. This hearing was especially important because EpiPens are predominantly used to keep children alive, which makes accessibility imperative.

During the hearing, I and other members of the committee questioned Heather Bresch, CEO of Mylan, the pharmaceuticals company that manufactures EpiPen.

Recently, Mylan has deservedly come under fire for increasing the cost of EpiPen packs. Over the past seven years, the price of a two-pack of EpiPens has jumped from $100 in 2009 to $600 this year.

Despite its astronomical price spike, Bresch insisted that Mylan makes very little profit off of EpiPens. However, on Monday of this week it was revealed that Mylan’s EpiPen profit is not only significant, but actually 60 percent higher than the amount Bresch revealed during our hearing.

In an attempt to repair its image, Mylan announced it will reduce the price of the EpiPen, but it will still cost $300 for families making less than $97,000 a year. Consumers do have the option of using syringes to administer epinephrine, or they can buy from other countries – but that’s more hassle for families already overwhelmed with trying to figure out what to do as kids with allergies head back to school.

In the past I have been critical of people who defraud and abuse our government assistance system. But the same is true of those at the top. There are many business owners, like a car repairman in my hometown, who charge less than they have to in an effort to avoid taking advantage of their customers. Bresch should take note.

Bresch’s salary has increased right alongside the price of EpiPen. She currently makes about $19 million, which is a long way away from the $2 million salary she started out with not too many years ago. A CEO – especially a CEO who didn’t help found the company and has no risk - making such a large amount would have been unheard of in America 40 years ago, and is still unheard of in other developed nations.

America is a free nation, but the greed that Bresch has shown tears at the belief in the fairness of our free market system. As a country, we cannot afford to lose that belief.  I hope this is something that high-end executives and boards of directors consider in the future.

To help reduce the virtual monopoly – 97 percent - Mylan holds over the EpiPen market, Congress also questioned a U.S. Food and Drug Administration official during this hearing. Dr. Doug Throckmorton, the deputy director for the Center for Drug Evaluation, touched on how to speed up the approval process of generics to help bring down the price of EpiPens. The fact of the matter is the FDA sits on drugs for far too long.

It should also be noted that, while Mylan shouldn’t take advantage of life-or-death situations to make more money, the so-called Affordable Care Act shoulders part of the blame. As premiums and deductibles continue to climb, many families are forced to pay $600 for an EpiPen out-of-pocket. What was touted by the Obama Administration as a one-size-fits-all solution to America’s insurance woes simply isn’t working. And Bresch, the daughter of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), acknowledged as much during last week’s hearing.

Until the FDA speeds up its processes and Obamacare is repealed, Congress will have to continue embarrassing CEOs like Bresch into action.

Rep. Glenn Grothman is serving his first term representing Wisconsin’s 6th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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