WASHINGTON (KDKA) – Mylan, which is based in Washington County, has been making headlines for weeks as questions were raised about the $600 price tag for a two pack of EpiPens.
Lawmakers said Wednesday that the liquid medicine inside an EpiPen has been around for about 100 years and costs $1 to produce. Mylan’s CEO, Heather Bresch, tried to defend her company.
Bresch has been on the hot seat since her company hiked the purchase price of the life-saving EpiPen by 548 percent. Wednesday, she faced tough words from members of a congressional investigations committee.
Republicans and Democrats both pummeled her with questions about the price hike and her $19 million annual salary.
“The greed is astounding,” said U.S. Rep. John Duncan. “It’s sickening, disgusting, almost any words that you can think of.”
“To have companies like yours take advantage of this situation, to take advantage of these people who are really in need of medication,” said U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay.
Bresch defended her company, saying it will start to offer generic EpiPens at half-price.
“We announced the first ever generic of the EpiPen product, which will be priced at $300,” she said.
But that’s still triple the price of a few years ago, although Bresch claimed most people paid far less.
“Approximately 85 percent of EpiPen patients pay less than $100 for two, and the majority less than $50,” she said.
Committee chairman U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz was not impressed.
“Suddenly, feeling the heat, feeling the pressure, Mylan has offered a generic version and cut the price in half,” he said. “So that does beg the question, what was happening with that other $300?”
And some accused Mylan of forcing school districts to sign agreements not to purchase competitor products in order to get a cheaper price.
“It’s only discounted because you raised the price on them,” U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth said, “and then you say, ‘Oh, you want it at the old price before we jacked it up for profit? Here, you need to sign this and not buy this from anybody else.’”
Bresch tried to shift blame for the rising costs, but committee member U.S. Rep. Brendon Boyle of Philadelphia was skeptical.
KDKA’s Jon Delano: “Do you buy it that somebody else is at fault for their price hikes?”
Boyle: “In one word, no. [laughs] I don’t. While there can be other factors at play, the idea that they had to do this and had to increase the price by 500 percent because of external factors, just isn’t valid, and I don’t buy it. Most people don’t buy it, and it simply isn’t going to fly.”
Committee members also had sharp words for the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA was accused of dragging its feet in approving alternatives to the EpiPen.
For her part, Bresch so far has held her own, making no apology for Mylan’s actions and insisting that the company is acting appropriately.