Something of value could actually get done during the upcoming lame-duck session of Congress. That's if Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley launches an immediate Senate investigation of drug maker Mylan.
Grassley, R-Iowa, is one of a bipartisan slew of federal lawmakers demanding answers from Mylan and its CEO, Heather Bresch. Republicans and Democrats alike are teeing off on Bresch, the daughter of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, after the drug company hiked prices of the life-saving EpiPen by 400 percent since purchasing rights to the anti-allergy technology in 2007. Once less than $100, a two-week supply now costs north of $600, instigating charges of price gouging.
Last week, Grassley rejected the company's supposed fix -- a rebate card that, most observers say, is little but a public relations stunt that does little to help most EpiPen users and, ultimately, simply shifts the cost hike onto insurers and taxpayer-funded programs, such as Medicaid.
“The announcement today doesn’t appear to change the product price. The price is what Medicare, Medicaid and insurance companies pay. It’s what patients who don’t get assistance cards pay. And when drug companies offer patient assistance cards, it’s usually not clear how many patients benefit," Grassley said in a press release.
The situation has gotten so bad that, just last week, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation permitting first responders to use a syringe instead of Mylan's outrageously priced alternative.
Bresch has taken to the airwaves in an attempt to defend herself and stem her company's plummeting stock prices. Don't blame her company, she said. The "system is broken," she argued.
Yes. It's broken. And medical monopolies, such as Mylan, are what's clogging the gears. Whether she likes it, Bresch has earned comparisons with former pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli, who last year became the poster-boy for unfettered capitalism after his firm purchased a life-saving HIV drug and immediately jacked the price from $13.50 per tablet to $750. Shkreli doubled-down in an exceedingly smug testimony before a congressional panel. Unsurprisingly, he's now one of Bresch's biggest defenders.
Greed knows greed.
Strongly worded letters from senators aren't enough. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, ranking Democrat on Grassley's Judiciary Committee, is absolutely correct in her calls for sweeping investigations into Mylan's EpiPen monopoly.
Grassley should demand Bresch defend her company's apparent moral bankruptcy in front of the Judiciary Committee. He should demand a Federal Trade Commission probe into Mylan's actions. He should spearhead legislative reform that, once and for all, will put teeth into anti-trust and gouging laws that drug companies seem so keen on flouting. He should lead efforts to empower the government to better renegotiate drug prices on pharmaceuticals purchased by public programs.
Grassley last week rightly demanded answers. He should spend September toughening protections for Iowans whose lives depend on access to affordable drugs.
Quad-City (Iowa) Times