EpiPen Scandal — Big Pharma, Big Greed

Posted on September 15, 2016

The CEO of Mylan Pharmaceuticals has become the latest poster woman for corporate greed—the kind of publicity that no one wants. This fierce consumer backlash was directed at Heather Bresch after her company, Mylan, bumped the price of its lifesaving EpiPen from $124 to over $600. That’s a 400 percent jump in just seven years. Bresch says it’s not the company’s fault, blaming it on the healthcare supply chain system, which she says is “broken” and in need of an overhaul.

Congress isn’t buying that.   An investigation by the House Oversight Committee has been launched and Mylan is being asked to produce documents regarding the 15 price hikes EpiPen has undergone since 2008. Fortunately for consumers, her dad, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, is not on that committee. But, at least Ms. Bresch’s bank account isn’t broken. She personally took in nearly $19 million in compensation last year and CNN reports that Bresch has made $54 million over the past three years.

The furor over raising the price might not be so loud if EpiPen was not a life-saver, delivering a much-needed jolt of epinephrine to quiet an anaphylactic reaction to an allergen. After the EpiPen scandal came to light, the company announced a plan to offer coupons to bring down the price of EpiPen to those who might rely on it to save their life. The company offered $300 coupons to users as opposed to cutting its profit margin, which went from nine percent to 55 percent by 2014.

Price gouging has become a profitable enterprise for Big Pharma and the perpetrators are shameless. Gilead Sciences, maker of hepatitis C drug Solvaldi, was investigated by Congress when the price of one pill rose to $1,000. A senate investigation found that the company put profitability above patients, forcing taxpayers pick up the bill through Medicare and Medicaid.

Then there is drug CEO, Martin Shkreli, who joins Bresch in the Big Pharma Hall of Shame. He is the smug-faced 30-year-old who took to the airwaves to defend his company’s raising the price of AIDS medication, Daraprim, 5,000 percent in one day. This price-bump raised the cost of one pill from $13.50 to $750. Public backlash caused Shkreli to drop the price for a single pill to $375, still out of the reach of most consumers. Not surprisingly, Shkreli has injected himself into the debate over EpiPen, defending the price increase by Mylan Pharmaceuticals.

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