Senator Amy Klobuchar knows firsthand what it feels like to watch your child gasping for air, in need of medicine, after an allergic reaction.
Her daughter requires an EpiPen for her allergies, like millions of Americans, and Klobuchar was one of the many parents shocked to see Mylan Pharmaceuticals raise the price of the EpiPen to over $500.
“I had this experience myself, when we were in a remote part of Minnesota on vacation, of giving my child a cashew, and the 30 minute drive to the hospital where you don’t know if she’s going to make it or not, and she can’t breathe,” the Democrat senator from Minnesota recalls of the day she discovered her daughter, Abigail, was allergic. “It was something I’ll never forget.”
After that day, Klobuchar made sure to have an EpiPen ready for Abigail as a precaution.
“She’s allergic to cashews and pistachios, and that’s sounds like it’s easy to deal with, but it shows up surprisingly in fruits and you don’t know it, so we’ve always been told by every doctor to have an EpiPen with us at all times,” Klobuchar explains. “And the fact that they’ve gone from $100 in 2009 for a pack of two, to between $500 and $600 this year is just outrageous.”
Klobuchar, the Ranking Member of the Antitrust Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced Saturday that she’s calling for a judiciary hearing and investigation into Mylan’s price hike.
“If you look at the facts here, when Mylan controls 85 percent of the market, to quote Bloomberg News, and they had this monopoly power drop in their laps and they went for it – that’s what I see,” she says. “They say they’ve made some improvements, but there’s no way their improvements should be five times more the value of the item itself.”
In a statement shared with PEOPLE, Lauren Kashtan, Mylan’s head of North America communications, said they’re raising prices to stay in line with insurance costs.
“With changes in the healthcare insurance landscape, an increasing number of people and families are enrolled in high deductible health plans, and deductible amounts continue to rise,” Kashtan says. “This shift has presented new challenges for consumers, and they are bearing more of the cost. This change to the industry is not an easy challenge to address, but we recognize the need and are committed to working with customers and payors to find solutions to meet the needs of the patients and families we serve.”
Along with her push for judicial hearings with the support of Senator Charles Grassley, the head of the Judiciary Committee, Klobuchar also introduced four bills, three of which are bipartisan, in the attempts of stopping Mylan’s monopoly on epinephrine auto-injectables. One would allow the drugs to come in from Canada, where EpiPens are still priced around $100, and another would stop pharmaceutical companies and the generic medicine companies to create a monopoly. But Klobuchar says that all of the bills have been opposed, largely from pharmaceutical lobbyists.
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She says that the one positive of the outrage is that it’s calling attention to the problem.
“This is so outrageous, and parents and patients are supposed to be buying this every year because it expires,” Klobuchar explains. “So you’re asking all of 3.6 million – that’s how many prescriptions are written each year – families to just keep this on hand, probably not use it, and then pay escalating prices each year. And that’s what’s pissing people off.”
“I’m hopeful that so much pressure on Mylan gets them to change the price of the drug.”