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Marketplace Morning Report

Mylan says raising EpiPen price 500% isn’t the problem

Gigi Douban Aug 25, 2016
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 A pack of two EpiPens now costs $600, up from $100 in 2007.
Wikimedia Commons

Today the CEO of Mylan responded to the uproar over her company’s price increases for EpiPens, the life-saving anti-allergy injectors. A pack of two EpiPens now costs $600, up from $100 in 2007. CEO Heather Bresch said Mylan will offer more financial assistance to help people pay their out-of-pocket costs — the piece that health insurance doesn’t cover. But she did not offer to take back any of the price increases.

Instead, Mylan blames rising health care premiums and deductibles. But Robert Weissman, president of the watchdog group Public Citizen, says that’s not it at all.  “The problem is that Mylan has jacked up their price,” he said.  

Since 2007, the cost of EpiPens has gone up 500 percent. The answer isn’t to offer some patients a discount on the retail price, Weissman says. It’s to cut the price. 

“And they’re failing to do it,” he said. “It’s not to make insurers pay unreasonable prices, which are of course passed on to consumers at the end of the day anyway.” 

Uwe Reinhardt teaches economics at Princeton University. He says 85 percent of health care premiums are driven by what doctors, hospitals and drug makers charge. So to Mylan, he said this:  “If you jack up the price by 500 percent, you’re damn right the premium will go up. But you caused it. Not the insurance company.”

Mylan owns the market. For one thing, the company lobbied to get schools across the country to stock EpiPens. 

“If you’re a company, that’s the goal, right? Lock up as much business as you can,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin of the Center for Health and the Economy. He said a little competition would go a long way. 

“Usually what controls prices is the fact that you can’t get away with raising your price, you’ll lose your business,” he said. 

But there is no competition to the EpiPen. No other company has come up with anything as effective as the company’s patented injection device. 

 

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