Regardless of your party affiliation, Americans are fed up with corporate greed. Now infamous increased the EpiPen price by a whopping 15 times since 2009; its current list price is an astounding $609 for a two-pack (up from $124). The pen delivers epinephrine (adrenaline) during a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). In late August, parent groups started a vigorous social media campaign against Mylan and its CEO Heather Bresch. The timing occurred just as kids were starting the new school year.
The severe onslaught prompted Mylan to create a generic version at a 50% price reduction and give $300 credits. Bresch explained that Mylan’s profits are only $50 per pen, and the price hikes are the fault of the “broken” health care supply chain. Mylan doesn’t sell directly to consumers and Bresch blamed third party middlemen.
But this isn’t just a tale of corporate greed. It is also a tale of political favors and nepotism. As it turns out, Heather Bresch is the daughter of West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, which in and of itself is not an issue. But here’s what IS an issue.
In 2007, then-governor Manchin appointed his own wife Gayle to West Virginia’s state board of education for a 9-year term. In 2012, Gayle became the National Association of State Boards of Education president—get this–the same month Heather became the CEO at Mylan.
One of Gayle’s first actions as NASBE President was to encourage schools to purchase “medical devices that fight life-threatening allergic reactions”. Predictably, a new law called the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, was enacted in 2013. Federal funding preference is given to schools who stock the pen. Some states have passed laws requiring schools to stock the drug. Mylan contributed $15,000 to NASBE later that year, and they’ve built a nice little monopoly in our nation’s school nurses’ offices.
EpiPens expire after a year, so schools have to repurchase annually. Some individual consumers carry expired pens because they cannot afford the product, in hopes it’ll work if they need it, while others go without or seek unproven alternative treatments.
Mylan is under Congressional investigations regarding the price hikes, and the New York attorney general began an antitrust investigation related to Mylan’s school contracts.