Viewpoints

Seeking protection from baseless drug price hikes

Mylan CEO Heather Bresch testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016, before the House Oversight Committee hearing on EpiPen price increases. Bresch defended the cost for life-saving EpiPens, signaling the company has no plans to lower prices despite a public outcry and questions from skeptical lawmakers.
Mylan CEO Heather Bresch testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016, before the House Oversight Committee hearing on EpiPen price increases. Bresch defended the cost for life-saving EpiPens, signaling the company has no plans to lower prices despite a public outcry and questions from skeptical lawmakers. The Associated Press

I carry an EpiPen for my grandson’s peanut allergy whenever he is with me. This device can mean the difference between life and death.

Millions of Americans have shouldered the skyrocketing price of the EpiPen, more than 400 percent since 2007, because the cost of going without this life-saving product would simply be too high.

Mylan Inc., the corporation that sells the EpiPen, explains its price increase by citing the need to generate revenue to put toward research. Yet the company cannot point to any significant change in the product that would justify such a dramatic spike. Mylan’s baseless claims delegitimize life-saving research happening every day.

Money is needed to spur innovation and find cures. That’s why I have always been a supporter of robust funding for the National Institutes of Health. And I have advocated for more research and development on 7,000 rare diseases that affect 30 million Americans.

In 2015, the House passed the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act to help close that gap in treatment options for patients with rare disorders and conditions. It awaits Senate action.

Innovation requires investment. But that innovation cannot come on the backs of consumers who are trying to make ends meet. We need more transparency for drug prices so we can reward good actors who are giving hope for cures and shine light on questionable practices from companies such as Mylan.

Mylan has pointed to discounts it provides through patient assistance programs. Coupons help some, but this cost shifting means we could all face higher premiums and taxes. Insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid shoulder Mylan’s $600 price tag.

Mylan’s questionable practices have gone largely unchecked because of a lack of meaningful competition. To encourage greater participation in the marketplace, the Food and Drug Administration should further prioritize review of generic applications for products such as EpiPen that have a monopoly position. We need to ensure that the FDA has the resources to review applications for complex products.

Bad actors should not be allowed to back consumers into a corner. By increasing competition, transparency, and regulatory efficiency, we can stop abuses and still foster research to save lives.

Rep. Doris Matsui is a Democrat who represents Sacramento in Congress.

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