Policy

Democrats: EpiPen Cost Curbing Is PR Move, Not a Fix

Blumenthal calls pharmaceutical company's announcement a "baby step"

Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal has been critical of the skyrocketing cost of the EpiPen. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Some Congressional Democrats are criticizing a pharmaceutical company's effort to curb the rising cost of a drug used to combat severe allergic reactions as a public relations move rather than a solution.

Mylan announced Thursday that it would take steps to reduce the price of its EpiPen drug injector for some customers. The company said it would cover up to $300 of the cost through the use of a savings card, and would increase eligibility for a patient program that reduces costs for uninsured or underinsured patients.

But a few lawmakers who have been leading the charge against the rising cost of the EpiPen said the company did not go far enough.

“This step seems like a PR fix more than a real remedy, masking an exorbitant and callous price hike," Sen. Richard Blumenthal said in a statement. "This baby step should be followed by actual robust action."

[Blumenthal: Manchin Connection Shouldn't Affect EpiPen Investigation]

The Connecticut Democrat has called for a federal investigation into the drug's price, which skyrocketed from $100 to more than $600 in less than 10 years. Blumenthal and other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, including Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, also wrote to the Food and Drug Administration Wednesday, demanding answers on the lack of alternatives to the medication.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar has also been sounding the alarm about the rising cost. The Minnesota Democrat called Mylan’s cost-reducing action a “welcome relief,” but said it would not address the root cause of the medication's rising price.

Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings slammed the move as a public relations stunt. Cummings is the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and has worked to investigate rising drug prices.

"Offering a meager discount only after widespread bipartisan criticism is exactly the same tactic used by drug companies across the industry to distract from their exorbitant price increases, as our investigation has shown repeatedly," Cummings said. "Nobody is buying this PR move anymore.

[No Family Favors for Senator's Daughter and EpiPen CEO]

Mylan CEO Heather Bresch said in an interview on CNBC Thursday that the cost increase demonstrated a broader problem with the health care industry.

"No one's more frustrated than me," Bresch said.

Bresch's father is also a U.S. senator, Democrat Joe Manchin III of West Virginia. Blumenthal said her relationship with Manchin should not affect investigations into the medication's cost.

In his first statement on the matter, Manchin said Thursday that he shared his colleagues concerns about the "skyrocketing prices of prescription drugs."

"Today I heard Mylan's initial response, and I am sure Mylan will have a more comprehensive and formal response to those questions," he said. "I look forward to reviewing their response in detail and working with my colleagues and all interested parties to lower the price of prescription drugs and to continue to improve our health care system."

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.

Contact Bowman at bridgetbowman@rollcall.com and follow her on Twitter at @bridgetbhc.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.