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Wanted to be sure you saw today’s op-ed by Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) and Congressman Phil Roe (R-TN), M.D. in the Washington Post on today’s hearing on the extreme increase in the price of EpiPens. To read the op-ed, click here or see it below:
Congress Should Demand Answers from Mylan on Skyrocketing EpiPen Prices
By Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer and Congressman Phil Roe
September 21, 2016
As millions of American children returned to school over the past few weeks, parents and caregivers had long shopping lists filled with necessary items: notebooks, pencils, calculators, and lunchboxes, to name a few.
But for a growing number of families of children with severe food allergies, that list includes an emergency epinephrine injector. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, roughly one in thirteen kids under age eighteen have at least one food allergy.
One of us is a doctor and the other a grandfather of a child with a severe food allergy. Even a momentary exposure to the tiniest allergen can send a child with allergies into anaphylactic shock, and we both know how dangerous those first minutes can be.
Modern medicine has produced a lifesaving injection simple to administer in a device small enough to keep in a purse, knapsack, or teacher’s desk drawer, and — for many older children — an epinephrine injector is simple enough to be self-administered. With an emergency room visit resulting from allergy-instigated anaphylaxis occurring every six minutes on average, it’s critical that those who are at risk have rapid access to epinephrine. But the price of the so-called EpiPen has skyrocketed to egregious levels.
On Wednesday, we’re glad to see that the House Oversight Committee will hold a hearing with Mylan executives, who are accused of raising the wholesale price of the EpiPen over the past nine years from less than $100 for a package of two doses to more than $600.
The American people, particularly the approximately 15 million with food allergies, deserve an explanation from Mylan about why this company engaged in what appears to be disgraceful profiteering.
In 2013, we worked together to pass the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act. That bipartisan law, which encourages states to make emergency epinephrine injectors available in schools and trains school staff in their proper use, came about because of growing concern that many children experiencing anaphylactic reactions for the first time aren’t even aware they have a food allergy.
Our legislation is helping to make sure that life-saving epinephrine will be on hand in school even if students aren’t carrying injectors brought from home. The wellspring of support that led to our bill’s passage came from the concern of so many members of Congress who heard from constituents and family members with severe allergies.
The members of Congress who worked hard to pass our measure deserve answers from Mylan, the biggest manufacturer of the EpiPen. For Mylan, the cost of manufacturing EpiPen injectors did not increase. It acquired the patent for the EpiPen in 2007, more than a decade after it first reached the market, leaving the company free from having to repay costs associated with research-and-development.
Its products work no better today than they did before the price increased. The only difference now is that fewer Americans will be able to afford the treatment as Mylan seeks to maximize its profits on a device that some estimate costs only $30 to manufacture and delivers a dose of epinephrine costing the company only a dollar.
Part of the problem, of course, is that Mylan maintains a 95 percent market share for epinephrine injector devices. A generic epinephrine injector has not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Absent a competitive market, Mylan engaged in egregious price-gouging, rendering a life-saving drug unaffordable for many who desperately need it for themselves or their children. That Mylan further increased the price of its EpiPen after Congress passed our 2013 bill raises serious questions.
We also want to understand better why a generic alternative to the EpiPen has yet to come to market and what barriers may exist to introducing generic competition in the future.
Lives are at stake, and our children and their parents ought to have the peace of mind that comes with having emergency epinephrine injectors readily available in case a severe allergy attack strikes. By holding this hearing, we hope Mylan understands Congress’s interest in making epinephrine injectors more affordable and accessible to those who need them — not less.
We plan to stay engaged on improving access to this life-saving medication.