Several months after ex-CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals Martin “Pharma Bro” Shkreli raised the price of Daraprim by roughly five thousand percent, a new challenger has appeared to take his place as the face of unethical medical business practices. Sometime in Mid-August, Mylan, a global pharmaceutical company, has once again raised the prices of the EpiPen. Increasing the price of a product is nothing new to corporations, but when it affects the livelihood of over 3 million American citizens, public backlash is expected.
After purchasing the rights to the EpiPen in 2007, Mylan has steadily increased the price of the product from $100 to today’s cost of $600, a five hundred percent increase in price. The EpiPen is a device containing drugs that can prevent patients with severe allergies from going into anaphylaxis, an extreme reaction that can cause swelling in airways. The pens contain epinephrine, otherwise known as adrenaline, which relaxes the muscles and opens up airways allowing the individual to breathe. Lack of an EpiPen can lead to unconsciousness or even death.
When interviewed by The New York Times, Mylan CEO Heather Bresch did not apologize for the sharp price increase despite the overwhelmingly negative response. Instead, she is embracing the decision, stating “I am a for-profit business. I am not hiding from that”. Fortunately Mylan has taken a mild step back by offering vouchers to reduce the amount that consumers are paying out of pocket. The vouchers would at most knock off $300 from the sticker price. While Bresch claims that the price hike is a necessity, some critics have called the company’s actions “opportunistic”.
This is not the first time that Bresch has been in the controversial spotlight. According to 2008 reports, Bresch mislead public officials by claiming that she earned a Master’s degree in Business Administration from West Virginia University. Reports claim that this is indeed false, and after some investigation, it was found that Bresch did not fulfil the requirments necessary to complete the degree and that her father, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, is longtime friends with Mike Garrison, the school’s president. This led to his stepping down later that year.
Bresch was also under heavy fire from merging Mylan with another pharmaceutical company in the Netherlands. Due to a legal loophole, this merge would result in the company’s avoidance of the corporate tax in the U.S. and allowing them to pay less for maintenance, a practice that is frowned upon nationwide.
To make matters worse, Mylan is the leading corporation when it comes to dispensing EpiPens. While there are alternatives, most of them differ from Mylan in that the medication does not have the exact same composition, and is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While there is an alternative in Adrenaclick, GoodRx.com prices the 2 pack pens at a range from $144 to $379 with the use of coupons or discounts.
Whether or not Mylan will back down and lower the cost of the EpiPen is not yet known, as the company is not necessarily obligated to change the price of their products simply because of public outcry.