The EpiPen saga continues

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The company that purchased the rights to a device used in emergencies to treat anaphylaxis, then raised the price by more than 500 percent, has bowed to public pressure somewhat.

Mylan announced today it would cover up to $300 of what people pay for a two-pack of EpiPen, provided they were previously paying the full amount of the company's price.

It isn't clear how many were actually paying full price. According to Bloomberg, a package of two EpiPens costs $415 in the U.S. after insurance discounts. In France, two EpiPens cost $85.

But today's news is a step in the right direction.

Wednesday, we concluded an opinion in this space that an alternative to private investment in new medications would be taxpayer dollars, but it turns out, sure enough, taxpayers already contributed to the EpiPen product that is so profitable for Mylan.

The family of Sheldon Kaplan told the Tampa Bay Times that their father was developing the device for quickly injecting epinephrine to treat anphylactic shock when he was approached by the U.S. Department of Defense, which was looking for a way to quickly deliver an antidote for nerve gas.

Kaplan's device became known as the ComboPen, issued to military units before being made available to the public as the EpiPen in the 1970s.

He went on to become a biochemical engineer and never profited from his work.

The same couldn't be said for Mylan's CEO Heather Bresch, whose salary increased by 671 percent after the EpiPen price hikesand was Mylan's chief lobbyist before taking her current job.

She's the daughter of Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, and helped promote a bill, signed by President Barack Obama in 2013, that required all public schools to carry EpiPens for students with food allergies.

The next three years saw the price of the pen climb from about $250 to $600 per package, and account for about 40 percent of Mylan's profits.

About the same time, the company incorporated in the Netherlands, despite being headquartered in Pennsylvania, in a trick known as tax inversion, further increasing profits.

The free market has served us well, but corporate decisions like those surrounding the EpiPen controversy beg for swift and heavy-handed government action.

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