WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley this week asked the manufacturer of the EpiPen, used for emergency treatment for life-threatening allergic reactions, to explain a steep price increase in the product in recent years. Grassley cited concerns expressed to him from Iowans, including a father in Iowa who said he had to pay more than $500 for one EpiPen for his daughter. Iowans also wrote to Grassley that since the pens expire after about a year, the cost is recurring.
“In the case of EpiPens, I am concerned that the substantial price increase could limit access to a much-needed medication,” Grassley wrote to Heather Bresch, chief executive officer of Mylan. “In addition, it could create an unsafe situation for patients as people, untrained in medical procedures, are incentivized to make their own kits from raw materials.”
Grassley described how the price increases have an effect on school budgets, when schools keep the drug on hand for emergencies, the effects on first responders who are making their own kits with epinephrine vials and syringes, and the effects on state and federal health care programs funded by taxpayers. More than 40 percent of children are insured through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. “It follows that many of the children who are prescribed EpiPens are covered by Medicaid and therefore the taxpayers are picking up the tab for this medication,” Grassley wrote.
Grassley asked a series of questions about the pricing, including what analyses were conducted in determining the price, Mylan’s advertising budget for EpiPen in the first half of 2016 as well as 2015, an explanation of the features the company said have improved the product and its value, whether the company offers patient assistance programs, and whether the company has school assistance programs for providing the drug and if so, how many schools have used the programs.
Grassley works to address the rising cost of prescription drugs. He introduced legislation that would deter brand name pharmaceutical companies from denying access to drug samples and blocking generic drug makers from developing less expensive generic alternatives. This is in addition to his legislation that would help put an end to pay-for-delay settlements between brand name pharmaceutical companies and generic companies that delay consumers’ access to lower-cost generics. Grassley also conducted oversight on the pricing of expensive new hepatitis drugs and their impact on the health care system.
Grassley’s letter is available here.