RELEASE: Senator Hernandez Condemns EpiPen Maker with Joint Resolution to Congress

August 30, 2016

Announces Series of Informational Hearings on Skyrocketing Drug Prices

In the final days of the California State Legislative session, Senator Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) has introduced Senate Joint Resolution 29 (SJR 29), urging Congress to take action against the company Mylan, which manufactures the EpiPen.

In the resolution, Senator Hernandez calls on Congress to investigate Mylan’s monopoly on epinephrine auto injectors and for the Food and Drug Administration to reconsider its denial of generic alternatives. Mylan purchased the rights to the EpiPen in 2007 and has raised the price ever since, with a two-pack of the auto-injectors costing more than $600 – an increase of more than 500 percent. 

“The drug maker Mylan is taking advantage of its monopoly and exploiting a life-saving medication that countless families across California and the nation rely on,” said Senator Hernandez.

Just $1 or so of epinephrine is used in the device, with the actual device costing just a few dollars to make, but with no effective competing products, Mylan can charge people with life-threatening allergies whatever price they want.

Senator Hernandez, along with a diverse coalition of supporters, took on the larger issue of skyrocketing drug prices during the 2015-16 legislative session as the author of Senate Bill 1010, which required drug makers to give prior notice to purchasers before raising prices and health plans to report the proportion of premiums we pay for prescription drugs. Senator Hernandez delayed moving the legislation forward after amendments in the Assembly made the bill’s original goal of transparency difficult to achieve.

As chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Senator Hernandez also announced today his intention to hold a series of informational hearings this fall on skyrocketing drug prices, with special focus on Mylan and the increased price of EpiPens. 

“My experience with SB 1010 has made me more resolved than ever to bring transparency to these arbitrary and harmful drug price increases. In addition to the series of informational hearings on rising drug prices, I will reintroduce SB 1010 in December. However, something must be done now to correct the market for this particular drug. The federal Administration and Congress have the power to limit the unrestrained ability of Mylan to gouge our health care system, and they should use it,” continued Senator Hernandez.

California Labor Federation and Health Access California, organizations who supported SB 1010 and SJR 29, have both called for continued vigilance in tackling out-of-control drug pricing.

“Recent news about escalating prices of lifesaving drugs makes it clearer than ever that we need action on prescription drug pricing. When prices for drugs like EpiPens spike, it endangers the safety of our children and hits working people square in the pocket,” said Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the California Labor Federation Art Pulaski. “We’re committed to passing meaningful legislation that ensures drug prices are fair and transparent. Corporate greed should never put our kids in danger.”

“We can’t allow unexplained price hikes of prescription drugs to continue to harm our health system and our families’ finances. Despite the drug company spending and the policy setbacks this year, public demand on prescription drug prices will force reform. EpiPen and every new high-priced drug or unjustified price spike only increases public attention and anger on this issue,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition.

For his part, Senator Hernandez is not willing to give up the fight and believes that the long term success of health care reform rests heavily on addressing rapidly rising costs in the pharmaceutical industry. 

“It is drug companies like Mylan that are driving up insurance premiums, threatening the continued success of the Affordable Care Act,” added Senator Hernandez.

All legislative business must be completed by August 31 at midnight.