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Wisconsin congressman grills CEO of company that makes EpiPen

27 September 2016
Wisconsin congressman grills CEO of company that makes EpiPen

Rather than listening and focusing on the questions that needed to be asked, many members of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee seemed more interested in venting their anger at Mylan CEO Heather Bresch over repeated price increases for the auto-injector and trying to force her to feel guilty for her almost $19 million salary and corporate perks.

Mylan's move to raise prices comes from their CEO Heather Bresch about a year after a scandal in which Martin Shkreli, the CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, raised the price on Daraprim, an AIDS medication, from $13.50 a pill to $750 overnight.

I am nowhere close to being optimistic that this signals a new comity on Capitol Hill which will result in addressing, say, the underlying flaws in the nation's healthcare system that result in drug-company CEOs getting obscenely rich on the backs of the middle class, or other issues such as the federal budget.

EpiPen pricing has been a focus of controversy in recent weeks. It's likely that many patients aren't receiving them at the beginning of their shelf life; patients on a number of online forums report that pharmacies have offered them products that are marked to expire in less than ten months.

Congress heaped scorn upon the CEO of the drug company that makes the EpiPen treatment during a committee meeting Wednesday. But again lawmakers were skeptical. "Show it to us".

As a sop, Bresch announced that Mylan is putting out its own generic EpiPen that lowers the wholesale acquisition cost from $600 to $300 per two-pack of the product.

After being peppered by questions from Cummings, Bresch revealed that in 2015 the company sold roughly 4 million two-packs of EpiPen, with $100 for each two-pack being pure profit.

Testifying before the Senate, Bresch said Mylan has given away thousands of EpiPens to schools and patients.

"You have to expect that, you know", he said. It's a crock; it is. The company confirmed she resigned, adding it had thanked her for her work. "Lower the price so they can afford it". The probes include state attorneys general investigating possible Medicaid fraud as well as legislative committees demanding internal documents from the company about EpiPen's price. "But no one really deserves $18 million", he said. Maryland Representative Elijah Cummings, the panel's top Democrat, was just as blunt with the questions.

The Food and Drug Administration's Dr. Douglas Throckmorton said at Wednesday's hearing that he could not legally comment on other epinephrine auto-injector products pending approval. "We never intended this". "And I'm not buying it".

In a vacuum, there is nothing wrong with a company making profits, of course.

"Which therefore makes people say, 'Well wait a second, previously you told us the policy was good. Because it's so darn hard to get the stuff approved". The committee chair seemed frustrated when Throckmorton said he could not legally respond due to the confidentiality of commercial information contained in drug applications.

Chaffetz was not the only member of the committee to get in some licks. The situation with Mylan's EpiPen is just one symptom of a much larger sickness based in Washington. "However, there was little understanding of drug markets even by the more informed members", he stated.

Bresch said the company receives $274 per two-pack after rebates and fees are deducted.

But things weren't exactly friendly for Bresch, whose company makes EpiPen, the shots that are used in emergencies to stop potentially fatal allergic reactions.

"What have you done?" she said. As teachers, we firmly believe that no school should choose between needed resources and the lives of their students. "But I have to defend both my Republican and Democrat colleagues, because you asked for it".