A collective outcry lead Mylan, the maker of EpiPens, to offer a mea culpa of sorts last week. The drug-maker promised to double the eligibility for patient assistance and eliminate out-of-pocket expenses for both uninsured and under-insured patients. Mylan also said it would honor a 50 percent savings card, effective immediately.
At that time, CEO Heather Bresch—who came under fire for her hefty salary increases as the cost of EpiPens skyrocketed—said, "We have been a long-term, committed partner to the allergy community and are taking immediate action to help ensure that everyone who needs an EpiPen Auto-Injector gets one."
Except apparently, those initial measures were not enough to assuage customers' frustrations. So now, the company has taken another step toward winning back the public's trust. The New York Times reports Mylan has decided to sell a generic version of the name-branded EpiPen at a lower cost. For a two-pack, which will be available in a matter of weeks, patients can expect to pay $300, or half the current price tag of the brand name.
Still, $300 is three times more than the medication cost just nine years ago. And as the Times notes, the cost to manufacture a generic version of the epinephrine injectable is believed to be much less than that number.
And so, the controversy rages on, with lawmakers promising to investigate Mylan further, and a petition to Congress demanding for a stop to the price gouging continuing to gain traction online. Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, a consumer group, said in a statement, "The weirdness of a generic drug company offering a generic version of its own branded but off-patent product is a signal that something is wrong. In short, today's announcement is just one more convoluted mechanism to avoid plain talk, admit to price gouging and just cut the price of EpiPen."
But Bresch continues to point to the role of policymakers, payors, patients, and healthcare professionals in setting EpiPen's price, and ultimately, reforming our healthcare system so that patients' wallets don't suffer.
All that is clear at this juncture is that something is broken if making a medication affordable to those who need it is so darn complicated!
It's worth noting that, for now, Mylan faces almost no competition when it comes to their product. According to the Times, in light of the fact that Mylan can't seem to make customers happy, that could soon change.
Do you think the company is doing enough to help patients who need EpiPens?
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.