It’s a critical issue. Lives are at risk. Parents sometimes need as many as 4-8 sets of EpiPens, if they have multiple children with food allergies. The skyrocketing price of the device made it so that many parents can no longer afford to keep their children safe. The coupons introduced by the company aren’t always working, as we continue to hear from families paying over $300 for one set.
As the #epigate story broke last year, we heard from pharmacists who spoke about crying mothers at their counters, no longer able to afford EpiPens. We heard from mothers who split their packages in two, putting a child who may need two injections at risk. And we heard from families who chose between buying an EpiPen and paying their rent or mortgage or food bills. But without a doubt, the hardest conversations we had were with the parents who lost their children to a life-threatening allergic reaction.
So I watched with interest when the CBS anchor, Norah O’Donnell, said to Mylan’s CEO, “You really took it on the chin.” To which a remorseful looking Ms. Bresch, nodded “yes,” like a child caught with her hand in the cookie jar.
And my heart broke as I watched it, not for Ms. Bresch, but for the families I know who have lost their children to a life-threatening allergic reaction. The deaths are happening too frequently, too many in the last year alone, as the price of her device skyrocketed.
And I thought, “Ms. O’Donnell, I want you to hear the stories of these parents, because they are the ones who “took it on the chin.””
And as I listened to Ms. Bresch once again try to deflect blame, I thought about how Americans pushed for a Congressional investigation into Mylan’s price gouging, and how she flew into DC on a private jet, yet failed to answer with any certainty almost all of the questions presented by the Congress.
Since then, Mylan’s CEO has been largely missing from the public eye, but in the face of an announcement that Cigna will no longer cover her top revenue generator, that CVS Pharmacy is launching an alternative at 1/6 the price, and the news from Auvi-Q that they are returning to market in February, Ms. Bresch appeared on CBS News this morning.
But I could not stomach her answer that she was the one that “took it on the chin.” Not given how many families I know who have lost their children, not given how many I know who still can not afford the device. I obviously wasn’t alone, as the response to Norah O’Donnell’s tweet about the segment speaks for itself, which you can read here.
It reminded me of points that we shared last year, as #epigate hit: 20 things you may not know about Mylan, the company that makes EpiPen. These 20 points are why, before pointing the finger at anyone else, the company has a lot to take care of internally.
20 Things You May Not Know About the EpiPen Company
- The price of the EpiPen has increased 17 times since Mylan acquired the company in 2007.
- Mylan left United States for a tax inversion. It moved its headquarters to the Netherlands to avoid paying higher taxes and to avoid a takeover.
- The Dutch maneuver and movement of the company’s headquarters overseas, which transferred a large chunk of Mylan shares to a special foundation called a stichting, also acted as a poison pill that would undermine takeovers.
- Senator Joe Manchin (of West Virginia) has a daughter who is the CEO of Mylan.
- Mylan was originally a West Virginia company where the Senator is from.
- Even Senator Joe Manchin said the tax inversion should be illegal.
- EpiPens were about $57 when Mylan acquired it. Today, it can empty pockets of $600 or more in the US
- EpiPens were invented in 1977, almost 40 years ago. A patent life is usually 17 years.
- Mylan’s profits from selling EpiPens, which they have aggressively, famously marketed, hit $1.2 billion in 2015.
- That year, Bloomberg reported that the epinephrine-delivery system represented 40% of Mylan’s operating profits.
- EpiPen was developed for the U.S. military for treating exposure to nerve agents in the course of chemical warfare
- The top five executives of Mylan pull in over $85 million dollars. The CEO makes about $19 million.
- The CEO claimed to have an MBA from West Virginia University despite being 22 credits short of completion.
- EpiPen Canada has not raised its prices in any significant way.
- In France, two EpiPens cost about $85. Two EpiPens in the U.K. cost 89.99 pounds.
- EpiPens in Australia cost about $40 AUD.
- EpiPens in the U.S. cost more than anywhere else in the world.
- The price of EpiPens in the U.S. is up almost 600%. The CEO’s salary is up 800%.
- According to Wells Fargo, Mylan raised prices by more than 20% on 24 products, and by more than 100% on seven products. The analyst who wrote the report warned that Mylan could draw “greater regulatory scrutiny and headline risk” as a result of such price boosts.
- The CEO, Heather Bresch, interviewed today for “taking it on the chin,” spoke about her over 90% market share and monopoly before Congress. She is one of the top paid executives in the pharmaceutical industry.
The bottom line is that lives are at risk. Kids are “taking it on the chin,” parents are “taking it on the chin.”
Some families need as many as 8 sets of EpiPens if they have multiple children with food allergies. They can no longer afford to keep their children safe. It’s hitting parents and taxpayers.
I have heard from a mother who said two EpiPens didn’t save her child. I’ve also heard from Congressmen and countless others whose lives have been directly impacted by Mylan’s price-gouging.
You have to wonder, in the company’s cost-benefit analysis, what is the value Mylan placed on a child’s life? What price elasticity did they discover when Ms. Bresch and her team decided to jack up the price of EpiPens seventeen times? What process did they go through in deciding to jack up the price of seven other drugs in their portfolio over 100% last year?
And is it really Ms. Bresch who “took it on the chin”?
If you were to speak to the families who lost their children, they would tell you otherwise.
I sincerely hope that their voices are heard, too.
Written in memory of Sabrina, Emily, Oakley, Joseph and the countless other children whose lives have been lost to a life-threatning food allergic reaction.
More information can be found here on their proposed “price cut” and other concerns from families, those in the Senate and business analysts: