Blumenthal: Mylan's generic EpiPen release not enough - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Blumenthal: Mylan's generic EpiPen release not enough

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EAST HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -

One of Connecticut's U.S. senators was joined by parents and educators to call for relief from skyrocketing EpiPen prices.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal said he's helping to lead a bipartisan coalition of senators exploring legislative solutions to provide legal tools to stop what he called "monopolistic pricing" by drug companies like Mylan.

"Mylans actions today raises more questions than solutions and I believe that an investigation is still vitally necessary to hold this company accountable to stop future price increases and lower present prices," Blumenthal said. 

He held a news conference at East Hartford High School Monday morning after Mylan said it would launch a cheaper, generic version of the medication.

“More must be done and more quickly to make this life-saving drug more affordable," Blumenthal said. "Myl‎an may appear to be moving in the right direction, but its announcement raises as many questions as solutions including why the price is still astronomically high, and whether its action is a preemptive strike against a competing generic."

EpiPen auto-injectors release a dose of allergic reaction and asthma treating epinephrine that costs about $1 on its own, according to Blumenthal. Mylan, however, is charging more than $600 for the pen.

He said Mylan touted its programs to provide free or discounted EpiPens to schools. However, recent reports revealed that the company has been requiring schools to promise that they would not purchase devices from the drug company's competitors.

Blumenthal said it's something that could violate federal anti-trust laws. He said without any significant improvement to the medication, Mylan has raised the price for its EpiPens by more than 600 percent since 2009.

"Investigations are still vitally necessary into possible antitrust lawbreaking, and I will press for Senate hearings as well as [Federal Trade Commission] subpoenas," Blumenthal said. "Mylan must be held accountable to lower prices now, stop future price increases, and answer for any past illegal misconduct.”

After public outcry, Blumenthal said Mylan increased a discount coupon from $100 to $300. It also expanded its eligibility for its patient assistance program.

Blumenthal called the measures "limited [public relations] stunts." He said families must still pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for the medication.

"Mylan's PR stunts are nothing more than window dressing to mask their exorbitant and callous price hikes," he said. "As children return to school this week, parents and educators are still left with enormous, unaffordable bills."

Carolyn Janis said when her son Noah was a baby, she learned that he had severe allergies.

"He's allergic to all nuts and to eggs, which is in so many products,” Carolyn Janis said. “And things kids like to eat."

Noah Janis needs an EpiPen in case he has a reaction and goes into shock. But, the high price tag is an expense that's becoming hard to afford. 

Blumenthal said his office has been flooded with calls, emails and letters from parents, nurses and medical professionals who fear folks won't be able to afford EpiPens.

"I am working across the aisle to demand hearings and investigations and to explore legislative solutions that will compel Mylan to do the right thing," Blumenthal said. "I will not rest until this life-saving medication is affordable to all families who need it."

 "Coupons may be fine now but what about the future,” Carolyn Janis said.

While many insurance companies cover the cost of EpiPens, those who are uninsured or have high deductibles can pay full price.

Noah will be going to nursery school soon. Gov. Dannel Malloy recently mandated that school staff be trained to use EpiPens.  

Noah's mom said she wants to make sure there's always one for him. 

"We still need to keep in him that teachers know protocol,” Carolyn Janis said. "We need to make sure that parents of our children understand why they can't expose certain kids who are fragile to such innocent foods as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches."

Blumenthal said a system in which public outrage is required to address situations is not efficient. He joined U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin last week to ask the Food and Drug administration to answer questions about its approval process and other steps for alternatives to the EpiPen.

"Given the importance of this topic, it is imperative to understand the FDA’s role with respect to EpiPens and its approval of generic equivalents that could help to increase competition and lower prices if introduced," the senators wrote to FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf.

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