Working to Keep Lifesaving Medications Affordable

On August 18, Chris Stover of Windham was enjoying a picnic lunch with his family at Sebago Lake State Park when he was stung by a bee.  With a potentially fatal allergy to such stings, he fell to the ground and began to lose consciousness.

Fortunately, Kate Charak, a nurse, was nearby.  She injected Mr. Stover with an EpiPen to reverse the effects of the severe allergic reaction and stayed with him until an ambulance arrived.   A few days later, Mr. Stover was able to celebrate his daughter’s second birthday and meet and thank the Good Samaritan who saved his life.

Our state and our nation are fortunate to have so many committed individuals ready to step forward in a time of crisis.  Unfortunately, the skyrocketing price of EpiPen in recent years – approximately 480 percent since 2008! – has made it more difficult to save the lives of individuals suffering from allergic reactions that can kill in a matter of minutes.

Having first come onto the market in 1987, EpiPen has been around for some time.  An auto-injector of the active ingredient epinephrine, EpiPen can be used easily and instantly by individuals with no medical training to reverse the deadly effects of serious allergic reactions.  For many years, EpiPen was an affordable solution to a matter of life and death.   

When EpiPen was acquired by Mylan, Inc., in 2007, a package of two-injectors cost slightly more than $100.  Since 2008, Mylan has increased the price dramatically to more than $600.  During that same time period, the profitability of the product appears to have skyrocketed, raising concerns that price increases were not driven by increased costs of production or product improvements.

Due to these soaring prices, there have been numerous accounts of individuals who are simply unable to afford this lifesaving medication and as a result have gone without, risked using an expired product, or resorted to less expensive but uncertain treatments. While Mylan has announced it will offer more generous patient financial assistance and that it will begin marketing a less-expensive product, it appears that assistance may be inadequate and presented in a manner that could be misleading to consumers. 

In addition to the individual Americans who are harmed by these price increases, local school districts and taxpayers are also affected, as many schools stock epinephrine auto-injectors to protect students.  Federal law actually encourages schools to maintain an emergency supply of epinephrine.  In addition, older Americans are at risk for more severe anaphylactic reaction and also rely on EpiPen.

Joined by the Aging Committee’s Ranking Member, Senator Claire McCaskill, I have written to Mylan CEO Heather Bresch asking for information about the drastic price increase of EpiPen and requesting that Mylan provide a briefing.  We have requested any analyses used by Mylan relating to the pricing and market share of EpiPen, along with any information reviewed or generated by the company’s Board of Directors related to the drug. 

When the patent expires on EpiPen, one factor that will help drive down costs for patients is ensuring there is a market for generic competitors.  We need policy reforms, such as the bipartisan legislation I introduced with Senator McCaskill, to ensure that the review and approval of certain generic drugs can be fast-tracked.

I am committed to obtaining answers regarding this drastic price increase, which I believe could have a serious effect on the health and well-being of everyday Americans and hinder the efforts of the Good Samaritans among us, like Kate Charak.  I will continue to work with my colleagues on bipartisan solutions that will protect the American public from price manipulation, increase competition, and keep life-saving medications affordable.