Price-gouging is simply wrong

Mylan Pharmaceuticals deserves every bit of the bad press it is getting for taking advantage of the nation’s health care system to reap enormous profits by overpricing a life-saving device.

EpiPens, the devices used by many with life-threatening allergies, cost consumers $93.88 for a pack of two in 2007. Then Mylan bought the rights to the device. Now, a two-pack costs $608.

That is simply wrong. Mylan made more than $1 billion for the second year in a row from EpiPens, according to its website newsroom.mylan.com, profiting handsomely from the device. The company’s defense for its pricing is totally absurd.

Mylan is headed by Heather Bresch. Bresch attempted to defend what her company charges for EpiPens by noting Mylan receives only $274 for each two-pack. Insurers, pharmacies, distributors and prescription benefit managers collectively rake in a larger share, at $334.

But just nine years ago, all those involved in making and distributing the devices had to receive shares, too. Back then, $93.88 seemed to be enough for them all.

Bresch did not say what share of the $93.88 Mylan received in 2007. Whatever that amount was, it has ballooned to $274 (though the company now says it is making $300 vouchers available to EpiPen purchasers, to help those who have to cover the cost out of their own pockets).

But it needs to be borne in mind that Mylan, as outrageous as the company’s action was, merely took advantage of the system.

Multiple organizations with financial interests are involved. So are government regulations that both boost the cost of producing health care drugs and devices and limit competition.

Government’s knee-jerk reaction to such unconscionable pricing often is to suggest mandated limits. But price controls never work.

The issue is broader than Mylan – and, for that matter, much more sweeping. EpiPens are not the only health care necessity being sold at outrageous prices. Cost increases for some drugs and medical devices make Mylan’s action, egregious as it was, look reasonable in comparison.

Mylan is part of the problem. But focusing solely on that company diverts attention from the systemic problems that will persist unless they, too, get the sort of critical scrutiny Bresch’s firm so richly deserves.


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