Responding to a growing furor from consumers and politicians, the pharmaceutical company Mylan will lower the cost of its EpiPens for some patients.
The company said it would take immediate action, including providing a savings card that would cover up to $300 of the cost of a pack of two EpiPens, an increase from the $100 savings card it had offered.
It also said it would increase the number of patients eligible for its assistance program, which provides the product – which treats life-threatening allergy attacks – free to patients who have incomes below a certain level and lack insurance coverage for drugs.
Mylan has steadily increased the price of EpiPen – a pack of two now has a list price of about $600, compared with about $100 when it acquired the product in 2007. In the last couple of years, the company has imposed two 15 percent price increases a year.
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This has provoked outrage from some parents who are confronting the higher prices as they buy the product for their children returning to school. The Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, said Wednesday that it was “outrageous” to increase so drastically the price of a product that people needed to survive. Members of Congress have also called for investigations into Mylan’s practices.
The new moves will probably not fully mollify the critics. For one thing, Mylan is not lowering the list price of EpiPen, just making it easier for consumers to pay for it. So insurance companies, federal health programs like Medicare and Medicaid that stock the products could still pay the same price.
Also, in its statement, Mylan put much of the blame for the problem not on its price increases but on insurance companies for placing a higher burden on patients for out-of-pocket costs.
“We have been a long-term, committed partner to the allergy community and are taking immediate action to help ensure that everyone who needs an EpiPen Auto-Injector gets one,” Heather Bresch, Mylan’s chief executive, said in a statement. “We recognize the significant burden on patients from continued, rising insurance premiums and being forced increasingly to pay the full list price for medicines at the pharmacy counter.”
The EpiPen is an auto-injector containing the hormone epinephrine, which can be used to counter or stave off anaphylactic shock caused by an insect bite or food allergy. It is pressed against the thigh and automatically injects the drug.
Mylan said most commercially insured patients were already being helped by its savings coupon and many paid no out-of-pocket costs. But more patients now have high-deductible health plans and were having to pay the full cost. For those patients, using the $300 savings card would cut their costs by half.
Also, the company’s patient assistance program will now cover those with incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, compared with 200 percent previously.
Mylan said it would also allow patients to order EpiPens directly from the company, reducing their cost.
Mylan also said that more than half the amount paid by the health care system for EpiPens goes to pharmacy benefit managers, insurers, wholesalers and pharmacy retailers, not to the company itself.
The company said its net price for the product – what it actually receives after rebates, discounts, patient assistance and product donations – is $274 of the list price of $608, resulting in annual sales of $1.1 billion to the company from the product. The other parties, it said, get $334 per prescription, or $1.3 billion a year.
The pharmaceutical industry, under siege for high prices, is trying to point fingers at insurers and pharmacy benefit managers. Stocks of biotechnology companies dropped across the board Wednesday after Clinton criticized Mylan and vowed to take action on drug prices if elected.