Mylan offers discount for Epipen, but blames Obamacare for its high price

Jim Bourg—Reuters
EpiPen auto-injection epinephrine pens manufactured by Mylan NV pharmaceutical company for use by severe allergy sufferers are seen in Washington

CANONSBURG, PA — Mylan NV said on Thursday it would reduce the out-of-pocket cost of its emergency severe allergy treatment, the EpiPen, through a discount program after several days of criticism over its increased price. The generic drug company purchased the EpiPen nine years ago and since then the product’s largest competitor, Sanofi’s Auvi-Q, has been recalled and is off the market.Mylan’s CEO Heather Bresch said implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has driven prices up because more employers are choosing high-deductible insurance plans to comply with the law. She said the end result is that more patients face higher drug costs.Bresch, defending EpiPen’s price in an interview on Thursday on CNBC, said her company had spent hundreds of millions of dollars improving EpiPen, including making its needle invisible, since acquiring the device from German generic drugmaker Merck KGaA.”When we picked up this product, they (Merck) weren’t spending a dollar on it,” said Bresch,Bresch said Mylan recoups less than half of EpiPen’s list price because pharmacy benefit managers, which often require discounted prices or rebates from drugmakers, are involved, along with insurers and others.On Thursday, the company, which did not lower the drug’s list price, said it would reduce the patient cost of EpiPen through the use of a savings card, which will cover up to $300 of EpiPen 2-Pak. The devices are preloaded injections of epinephrine (adrenaline) used in case of a dangerous allergic reaction that could cause death if untreated.The price of the product, acquired in 2007, has skyrocketed to $600 from $100 in 2008. For patients previously paying the full list price, the card effectively reduces their out-of-pocket cost exposure by 50 percent, Mylan said.The company said it is also doubling the eligibility for its patient assistance program, which will eliminate out-of-pocket costs for uninsured and under-insured patients and families.On Wednesday, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called on Mylan to voluntarily cut EpiPen’s price. Her comments helped push down biotech stocks. Mylan shares fell more than 10 percent this week before rising 3.2 percent on Thursday after announcement of the discount program.The controversy also put a spotlight on Mylan’s CEO herself. The daughter of West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who also served as the state’s governor from 2005-2010, Bresch was promoted from COO to CEO of Mylan in 2007. It was discovered at that time by a local paper that West Virginia University had awarded her MBA retroactively. Ultimately, the university investigated the case and revoked her degree. Three school officials, including the president lost their jobs over the scandal.Reuters News Service contributed to this report.