A group of 20 Democratic senators, including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, sent a letter to pharmaceutical company Mylan NV on Tuesday requesting details about the “exorbitantly expensive” price of its EpiPen auto-injector.
Mylan has been widely criticized in recent weeks for the high cost of the lifesaving drug, which has risen an estimated 500 percent to about $600 in the United States since 2008.
“Mylan’s near monopoly on the epinephrine auto-injector market has allowed you to increase costs well beyond those that are justified by any increase in the costs of manufacturing the EpiPen,” the letter from the senators said.
The letter echoes a request from the House Oversight and Reform Committee that asked Mylan to submit documents related to sales pricing and profits of the brand-name EpiPen by Sept. 12.
In their letter, the senators questioned Mylan over assurances that it guarantees anyone access to EpiPens through accessibility programs they say “represent a well-defined industry tactic to keep costs high.”
“Insurance companies, the government and employers still bear the burden of these excessive prices. In turn, those costs are eventually passed on to consumers in the form of higher premiums,” the senators said.
On Monday, Mylan tried to stem the tide of criticism over price spikes by saying it would soon release a lower cost $300 generic version of the EpiPen auto-injector.
“The generic raises additional questions about Mylan’s pricing of EpiPens,” the senators wrote in response. “The price of the generic is still three times higher than the cost of the branded EpiPen in 2007. And Mylan asserts that the generic is ‘identical to the branded product’ – further calling into question the excessively high price of branded EpiPens.”
Last week, Mylan announced that commercially insured patients would be eligible for a reduction in cost of up to $300 through an EpiPen discount savings card.
Other politicians opposing high U.S. drug prices expressed cautious optimism after Mylan’s announcement about the generic, but said they are waiting to hear more information.
“This sounds like good news but the details are important to know,” said Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, who also wrote a letter last week addressed to Heather Bresch, Mylan’s chief executive, requesting further information on the cause of the price spike.
He and fellow senators Richard Blumenthal, Patrick Leahy, Ron Johnson and Amy Klobuchar, who has a daughter with food allergies, also sent a letter to the head of the Food and Drug Administration, requesting details. They asked for information on EpiPen pricing, approval processes for competitor alternatives to EpiPen and the potential for making the drug available without a prescription.
Earlier this year, applications for alternative auto-injectors from Teva and Adamis pharmaceutical companies were not approved by the FDA. In 2015, drugmaker Sanofi voluntarily withdrew the rival Auvi-Q injector from the market over concerns that the preloaded pens might be delivering inaccurate doses.