U.S. lawmakers blast Mylan CEO over 'sickening' EpiPen price hikes

Wed Sep 21, 2016 6:05pm EDT
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By Toni Clarke

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday blasted Mylan NV Chief Executive Heather Bresch for sharply increasing prices for the EpiPen emergency allergy treatment at a congressional hearing in which Republicans and Democrats questioned the reasons behind rising U.S. drug costs.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform called Bresch to testify in the wake of public outrage over EpiPen, whose list price has risen to $600 for a pair of the devices compared with $100 in 2007.

Lawmakers in turn described the actions as "sickening," "disgusting" and showing "blatant disrespect" for American families who can no longer afford the life-saving device for children susceptible to severe allergic reactions.

At several points, they cut off Bresch's efforts to explain the intricacies of U.S. pharmaceutical pricing, including how health insurers and other payers take a percentage of treatment sales.

Several lawmakers noted EpiPen's growing profits over the same period as well as Bresch's annual salary, which has increased from around $2.5 million to more than $18 million. They also faulted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for moving too slowly to allow competing products to reach the market.

U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings, ranking Democrat on the committee, said Mylan "jacked up" the price of the product "to get filthy rich at the expense of our constituents." He questioned whether Mylan would change course in any way following the backlash over its pricing.

"After Mylan takes our punches they'll fly back to their mansions in their private jets and laugh all the way to the bank," Cummings said.

Bresch defended the price hikes, saying that after rebates, marketing costs and other expenses, Mylan earns about $100 for a pair of EpiPens. She emphasized that the company plans a half-price version of the device, that it provides them free to many schools and said that Mylan's generic medications combined have saved the U.S. healthcare system $180 billion in costs over a decade.   Continued...

Mylan NL CEO Heather Bresch holds EpiPens during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the Rising Price of EpiPens at the Capitol in Washington, U.S., September 21, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas