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Mylan releases a half-priced generic version of EpiPen

In this July 8 file photo, a pharmacist holds a package of EpiPen epinephrine auto-injectors, a Mylan product, in Sacramento, Calif. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
In this July 8 file photo, a pharmacist holds a package of EpiPen epinephrine auto-injectors, a Mylan product, in Sacramento, Calif. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
By Carolyn Y. Johnson Washington Post

Months after promised, Mylan launched a half-priced authorized generic of EpiPen, the lifesaving allergy injection that drew political ire for its dramatic price increases.

A two-pack of the generic EpiPen will carry a list price of $300 and will reach pharmacies next week, the company announced on Friday. In late August, Mylan said it would make the authorized generic, stating at the time that the drug would be available within “several weeks.”

Mylan chief executive Heather Bresch appeared before Congress in August to defend the price hikes of EpiPens. Since Mylan acquired the drug in 2007, the price has risen from less than $100 for a two-pack to more than $600. Sales of the drug have grown since then, from less than $200 million, to nearly $1.7 billion last year, according to data from IMS Health.

The authorized generic was one of several steps the company announced when its prices were under scrutiny, including expanding its coupon program and the financial assistance it provides to some patients. But in her testimony before Congress, Bresch sought to shift blame from her company to the labyrinthine network of middlemen that lies behind the list drug price, arguing that her company made a profit of $50 a pen.

Bresch and other drugmakers have increasingly been pointing a finger at another industry that benefits from high list prices – pharmacy benefit managers who negotiate drug prices on behalf of the industry. Drugmakers pay those companies rebates, and the pharmacy benefit companies pocket a portion.

“While it is important to understand the outdated and complex system that determines what someone pays for medicine in the U.S., hardworking families don’t need an explanation, they need a solution,” Bresch said in a statement. “This unprecedented action, along with the enhancements we made to our patient access programs, will help patients and provide substantial savings to payors.”

Later, a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission revealed that the profits the company reported to Congress were calculated after factoring in the corporate tax rate in the U.S. – much higher than what Mylan pays. Before taxes, the company’s profit was about $80 a pen, according to the filing.

Mylan has also been under investigation for how its drug was classified in the Medicaid program. Instead of being considered a name brand drug, the drug was classified as a “non-innovator” drug, meaning that the company had to pay a smaller rebate. The company entered a $465 million settlement with the Justice Department to “resolve questions that have been raised” about possible overpayment. The company did not admit wrongdoing in the settlement.

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