Chief executive Heather Bresch said on Aug. 25 that Mylan NV will take “immediate action” to reduce the patient cost of EpiPens by up to $300 through a discount savings card. The move follows widespread criticism over price spikes.
The wholesale price of a set of the lifesaving allergy devices has risen an estimated 500 percent in the United States since 2008. An EpiPen two-pack now retails for more than $600, hitting parents particularly hard as they renew back-to-school prescriptions.
Bresch increased the rebate level on the company’s savings cards after presidential candidate Hillary Clinton joined senators and members of Congress in criticizing the company for a sharp rise in the price of its EpiPen auto-injectors.
“We responded this morning, first and foremost, ensuring that everyone who needs an EpiPen has an EpiPen,” Bresch said on CNBC television, adding that as a mother she wants to make sure no one is falling through the cracks.
“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,” Bresch said.
“Patients deserve increased price transparency and affordable care, particularly as the system shifts significant costs to them,” she said.
Through the enhanced savings cards, patients who previously paid full price for the EpiPen will have costs cut by 50 percent. In addition to the cost-cutting program, the company is doubling eligibility levels for its patient assistance program, making it possible for a family of four making up to $97,200 to pay nothing out of pocket for EpiPens.
“Certainly it will reduce the out-of-pocket for people who have to buy a number of EpiPens,” said Dr. James Baker, chief executive of FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education), the allergy advocacy organization that has been trying over the past year to find a way to ensure all individuals with food allergies can access epinephrine.
“We’ll have to see how the program is implemented to be sure,” said Baker. “It’s a good step, and one that if it had been taken a while ago, would have helped avoid a lot of controversy.”
FARE’s efforts have included meeting in December 2015 with pharmaceutical companies marketing epinephrine, including Mylan, and offering “to set up an access plan for individuals with inadequate insurance coverage,” according to a statement on its website.
On CNBC, Bresch said Mylan gets $274 for an EpiPen two-pack. The remainder of the $608 price is taken by middlemen standing between the pharmaceutical company and patients, including insurers, pharmacy benefits managers, wholesalers and drugstores, she said.
“No one’s more frustrated than me,” Bresch said. “My frustration is, the list price is $608. There is a system. I laid out that there are four or five hands that the product touches, and companies that it goes through before it ever gets to that patient at the counter. Everyone should be frustrated. I’m hoping that this is an inflection point for this country,” she told the CNBC interviewer.
Bresch referred to drug pricing issues in general as “a health-care crisis,” that needs to be addressed.
Mylan said in a statement that it will also be making it possible for patients to order the auto-injectors directly from the company, leading to a cost reduction. Details of how this would work were not yet available.