On Tuesday, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that his office is investigating Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc, the maker of EpiPen, for possible use of anti-competitive terms in contracts it had with many school systems. Those terms allowed schools to receive Mylan’s EpiPens for free or at discounted prices as long as they did not buy competitor products for a year.
The terms may have helped Mylan drive up the price of the life-saving medical devices without facing stiff competition from similar epinephrine-injecting products, such as Adrenaclick. Since 2007, the year Mylan acquired EpiPen, the company has increased the price of the pens by more than 400 percent, pushing the list price above $600 (~£446) and drawing sharp public and political criticism.
“No child’s life should be put at risk because a parent, school or healthcare provider cannot afford a simple, life-saving device because of a drug manufacturer’s anti-competitive practices,” Schneiderman said in a press release. “If Mylan engages in anti-competitive business practices or violates antitrust laws with intent and effect to restrain competition at a lower cost, we will hold them accountable.”
As STAT reported late last month, more than 65,000 schools across the country are participating in Mylan’s “EpiPen4Schools” program, which began in 2012. Many states require schools to stockpile such devices, which quickly reverse deadly allergic reactions. Mylan’s program offered EpiPens to schools for free or at a discounted rate, which was just over $100 in 2015. But schools could only participate if they agreed not to buy competitors’ epinephrine autoinjectors in the following 12 months.
A Mylan spokesperson told STAT the program no longer includes that requirement, but the company wouldn’t say how recently the term was dropped.
As the public and politicians have become aware of Mylan’s price hikes, the company and its CEO, Heather Bresch, have come under intense scrutiny. Bresch, one of the highest-paid pharmaceutical industry executives who received more than $18 million in compensation last year, said she was “frustrated” by the price hike and blamed the country’s complicated and troubled healthcare system. Mylan now offers a slightly cheaper generic drug and has expanded its patient assistance programs.
Yet public and political pressure has not abated. In addition to today’s announcement from the New York Attorney General, two senators — Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) — have called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether Mylan was “intentionally involved in exclusionary practices to its competitors and maintains its monopoly position in the market.”