Sen. Warner questions manufacturer on EpiPen price increases

mark warnerU.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, today pressed the only pharmaceutical company that manufactures EpiPens to explain recent increases in the price of the lifesaving injection device for children and other people with severe allergies. It has been reported that costs for the EpiPen have risen more than 400% since 2007.

“Many families across the country, including my own, depend upon access to epinephrine auto-injectors to administer potentially life-saving treatment in the event of severe adverse allergic reactions. The EpiPen, which currently has no generic substitute on the market, made up over 87% of U.S. epinephrine auto-injector prescriptions in 2015, and plays a critical role in ensuring the health and peace of mind for many of the 1 in 13 children with food allergies,” wrote Sen. Warner in a letter to Mylan CEO Heather Bresch. “As the parent of a child with severe allergies, I am all too familiar with the life-or-death importance of these devices, and in Congress I have worked to facilitate access to epinephrine auto-injectors by sponsoring the Airline Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act and the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, both of which have been signed into law.”

An EpiPen injects a pre-measured dose of epinephrine (adrenaline) in the event of a dangerous allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis, to consuming peanuts, eggs and other foods as well as bee stings and insect bites. While a pair of the devices sold for less than $60 when the pharmaceutical company Mylan bought the rights to produce the EpiPen in 2007, wholesale prices for the drug have risen more than 400% since then. There is no generic equivalent for the EpiPen, and those with high-deductible insurance plans are paying more out of pocket to cover the high costs.

“As students head back to school, schools and parents are restocking on EpiPens, which have a one-year shelf life. However, the price of a two-pack of EpiPens recently increased to $600, a price increase of over 400% since 2007. In recent weeks, I have heard from hundreds of Virginia parents, teachers, and families who have been impacted by this increase,” Sen. Warner noted. “As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, I certainly understand that our health system is designed to encourage and reward pharmaceutical innovation, and that rising costs are often the result of a range of complex factors. However, I am deeply concerned by this significant price increase for a product that has been on the market for more than three decades, and by Mylan’s failure to publicly explain the recent cost increase, which places a significant burden on parents, schools and other purchasers of the EpiPen.”

In his letter, Sen. Warner pressed Mylan on what specific factors contributed to recent price increases, and whether Mylan explored reasonable alternatives to the price increase, such as working to extend the product’s one-year shelf life or allowing the purchase of individual EpiPens, which are currently only sold in two-packs.

Up to 6 percent of children have food allergies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and studies have found that up to 18 percent of children with food allergies have had a reaction after accidentally consuming allergens at school.

A copy of the Senator’s letter is available here.

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