Communicators at Mylan Pharmaceuticals talk about reactions all the time—allergic reactions, that is.
On Thursday, CEO Heather Bresch found herself reacting to a glut of unrelenting criticism surrounding on price increases on the company’s EpiPens.
Reuters reported early Thursday:
Mylan said it would reduce the out-of-pocket cost of its severe allergy treatment EpiPen through a discount program, a day after Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton joined lawmakers in criticizing the drug’s high price. The company, which did not lower the drug’s list price, said it would reduce the patient cost of EpiPen through the use of a savings card, which will cover up to $300 of EpiPen 2-Pak.
In 2008, the auto-injector—used to counteract severe allergic reactions—cost about $100. Now, the price tag is roughly $600. Reuters said Mylan is also doubling the eligibility for its patient assistance program. The changes will eliminate out-of-pocket costs for uninsured and under-insured patients and families, the news agency reported.
Mylan’s website stated the company was “taking immediate action” to help consumers manage the increase. However, an article in The New York Times on Thursday cited numerous social media efforts and online petitions by concerned parents who lambasted Mylan and brought attention to the issue. It seems that the company’s “immediate action” followed days of questions and condemnation.
Despite Bresch’s attempts to quell criticism on Thursday morning news programs, public outrage continued on Twitter:
Not so fast
Clinton and many members of Congress on Wednesday demanded to know why the hike was necessary. Journalists noted that Bresch’s father is a U.S. senator. According to Bloomberg:
If lawmakers follow the usual script, [CEO Heather] Bresch could get called up to Capitol Hill next month to explain her company’s justification for raising the price on the life-saving allergy shot. But that could be awkward since she’s the daughter of Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia…While CEO Bresch’s family ties may mute the ire of some lawmakers, others are already asking the company about taxpayers having to foot the bill for these price increases—particularly after Bresch and the company successfully pushed legislation to encourage the use of EpiPen’s in schools nationwide.
Speaking of relationships
By midday Thursday, another parent—actress Sarah Jessica Parker—voiced her disdain for Mylan’s price gouging. Parker posted on Instagram that her family has long depended on EpiPens, which led to her becoming a paid spokesperson for the product. The price hike, though, has prompted Parker to sever the relationship.
“I’m left disappointed, saddened and deeply concerned by Mylan’s actions,” the 51-year-old actress wrote in an Instagram post on Thursday. “I do not condone this decision, and I have ended my relationship with Mylan as a direct result of it.”
In the post, Parker noted that her son, James Wilkie, requires an EpiPen for his peanut allergy, writing that the product “is a vital part of our family’s healthcare, as it is for the many who are at risk.”
“I hope they will seriously consider the outpouring of voices of those millions of people who are dependent on the device, and take swift action to lower the cost to be more affordable for whom it is a life-saving necessity,” Parker continued.
Will Brecht—and Mylan—be able to reverse the damage to its reputation? We’ll be watching.