The cost of EpiPen, the injection used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions in children, recently skyrocketed from $100 to $600. In response to the public furor that ensued after this hike, Mylan, the product’s manufacturer, announced it would offer coupons that provide up to half the expense “for patients in health plans who face higher out-of-pocket costs.” In addition, the drug company said it would raise the income level at which families may receive help in buying the medication. These measures have failed to satisfy critics, who think the price increases are unconscionable.
In an interview with CNBC, Mylan CEO Heather Bresch defended the cost hike, explaining that the U.S. health care system necessitates higher prices for drugs because of the complex network of all the entities involved, including physicians, insurers, drug companies and pharmacy benefit managers. However, many feel this argument doesn’t hold water because of her reported $18.9 million salary in 2015. Mylan and other drug companies that have engaged in price gouging have been the recipients of fury from Congress and condemnation from patient advocate groups.
Congressional lawmakers may want to act, but their options are limited because of regulations that are a part of the Affordable Care Act. Marianne Udow-Phillips, director of the Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation at the University of Michigan, tells USA Today that the federal government gave up Medicare’s right to negotiate cost increases in an agreement to obtain the drug industry’s support for the health care legislation. While Democratic Presidential Candidate Hilary Clinton wants the government to restore Medicare’s bargaining leverage, it remains to be seen whether anything can or will be done to protect the public from drug cost spikes.
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