Release: High Cost of Drugs Impact All Californians

October 4, 2016

Senate Health Committee convened a hearing on EpiPens and drug pricing

LOS ANGELES – Senator Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) convened a Senate Health Committee hearing on the EpiPen and drug pricing on September 29th to hear from patients, families, and providers on how price increases over the past decade have impacted access to the life-saving drug epinephrine.

With no effective competing products, Mylan, the company that makes EpiPens, can charge people with life-threatening allergies whatever price they want. Although the true cost of EpiPen is often shielded from the public’s view, everyone ultimately ends up paying the increased price in the form of higher health insurance premiums.

“It appears Mylan’s business practice is to make record profits, without regard to those whose lives depend on EpiPens,” said Senator Hernandez. “By continually increasing the price of this drug and other drugs, these companies prioritize their own self-motivated goals and pass along the costs to all consumers. As chair of the Senate Health Committee, I will continue pushing this issue and ensuring health care is affordable for everyone.”

Mylan’s CEO Heather Bresch was invited to participate, but neither she nor any other company representative attended.

The Committee heard compelling testimony from children and families who have been directly affected by Mylan’s price increases, which are enabled by their domination of the epinephrine auto-injector market. EpiPen’s sticker price has grown to more than $600 for a two-pack.

“We're never really sure what we're going to pay each time we walk into the pharmacy. My family doesn't have a choice,” said Angela Chen, 17, from Arcadia. “Mylan can hike up the prices of EpiPens, and we still have to drag ourselves to the pharmacy to buy it because it is so crucial. It is not transparent what's going on, and it is disturbing because I will have to rely on this device for the rest of my life.”

In addition to increasing the price of EpiPens, Mylan ramped up public awareness of their product and promoted policies that attempted to ensure its purchase by individuals and institutions while shielding the public from the true costs. 

Pharmaceutical companies use unbranded advertising or hire public spokespersons that are not allowed to mention the drug or the company by name, as a way to skirt direct-to-consumer advertising rules.

"I thought I was an advocate being used as a mouthpiece for food allergy awareness. But really, I was just used,” said Kelly Rudnicki, formerly hired by Mylan to do unbranded advocacy. “Mylan needs to show transparency and be accountable for how they have manipulated the very consumers who filled their pocketbooks, even as those same consumers wrestled with having the money in the first place to fill their life-saving prescriptions.”

While an egregious example, Mylan is not an outlier. Many drug companies plan and price in the way that Mylan has, and this trend is only expected to continue.

“I will again introduce legislation in 2017 to address the affordability of prescription drugs in California,” said Senator Hernandez. “We cannot stand by and watch drug companies continue to prioritize profiteering at the expense of the public.”

During the 2015-16 legislative session, Senator Hernandez introduced Senate Bill 1010 to bring transparency into drug prices. In addition, he authored Senate Joint Resolution 29 urging the federal government to right the ship on EpiPen pricing.

To view the entire Senate Health Committee hearing on EpiPens and drug pricing, please click here​.