Since being singled out by Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley last week, the company that makes EpiPens has been heavily criticized in the national media for its 400 percent price hike on the devices.
They’re used in the emergency treatment of life-threatening allergic reactions. On Monday, Mylan announced it would offer a generic version of the auto-injector but Grassley isn’t convinced that’s sufficient to address the problem.
“I don’t think I’m going to make any judgment until I get a written response from the company and that’s supposed to be coming in by September the 6th,” Grassley says. “The CEO tried to talk to me through my chief of staff on the phone and indirectly wanted to talk to me but I’m going to wait until I get answers in writing.” While the devices were sold in two-packs in 2009 for about $100, Grassley says he’s heard of single EpiPens now costing $500 or more. The Pennsylvania-based Mylan is rolling out discounts to certain lower-income users, while the generic version would reportedly cost $300 per pair.
“I think they have a big public relations problem,” Grassley says. “I believe this generic thing, if it was a good thing to do, why wasn’t it done before and why don’t they just reduce the price to something reasonable?”
EpiPens resemble an ink pen and auto-inject epinephrine, a chemical that narrows blood vessels and opens airways in the lungs. Grassley has publicly scolded Mylan CEO Heather Bresch, whose father is U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia. Grassley, a Republican, says he isn’t afraid this quarrel with Manchin’s daughter will cause any ill will under the U.S. Capitol dome.
“He is such a personality and wants to work across party lines and so friendly and so open that nothing like this would interfere with our working relationships,” Grassley says. Dozens of Iowans have contacted Grassley’s office in recent weeks to complain about the EpiPen price hike. He says some Iowans need these devices in case they have a severe allergic reaction, by accidentally eating nuts for example, that threatens to cut off their ability to breathe.