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The Latest: EpiPen price hike linked to Medicare drug issue

Posted September 21

— The Latest on the House Oversight and Government Reform hearing on rising EpiPen prices (all times local):

5:25 p.m.

A Democratic congressman is suggesting that public outrage over the increase in price for the EpiPen could help Congress pass legislation allowing Medicare to directly negotiate drug prices with companies.

Congressman Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts linked the EpiPen controversy to Medicare and drug prices during a hearing Wednesday before a House committee. He says the high price charged by pharmaceutical company Mylan shows a blatant disregard for people who need the EpiPen.

Medicare is the federal government's largest drug purchaser. Allowing it to negotiate directly with companies is a move long favored by the Obama administration, but one universally opposed by drugmakers.

Lawmakers of both parties are pressing Mylan CEO Heather Bresch about company profits from the EpiPen. Bresch says the company does not take home the $600 list price of the emergency injection.

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4:10 p.m.

The top Democrat on a House committee investigating the price of the EpiPen says pharmaceutical company Mylan has not turned over figures detailing its profits from the emergency injection.

Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland is the ranking member on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He says Americans have a right to know how much Mylan executives are making off what he calls "exorbitant prices."

CEO Heather Bresch says Mylan makes about $50 per pen after subtracting rebates, fees, materials and other costs. The injectors sell in two packs for about $600 each.

Cummings is pressing the CEO on how many units Mylan sold last year. Bresch says roughly 4 million packs.

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3:45 p.m.

The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee says high executive pay at pharmaceutical company Mylan "doesn't add up for a lot of people" as the company has raised the price for the life-saving EpiPen.

Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah says executives for the company made $300 million over five years while the list price for a pair of the emergency allergy shots has risen to more than $600.

Chaffetz says parents don't have a choice.

Mylan CEO Heather Bresch is testifying before the panel Wednesday. Bresch says the company makes only $50 in profit on each EpiPen.

Chaffetz says he finds that "a little hard to believe."

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3:40 p.m.

A senior Food and Drug Administration official says the agency cannot approve generic versions of EpiPen if manufacturers do not submit them.

The FDA's Dr. Douglas Throckmorton is telling House lawmakers that his agency has given the drug industry suggestions for developing drug injectors like EpiPen.

Lawmakers have pressed the FDA in recent days on what can be done to create more competition for Mylan's EpiPen.

The agency has a backlog of generic drugs under review, including a version of EpiPen from competitor Teva Pharmaceuticals. But the company said earlier this year that regulators had found problems with its application. Teva's drug and several others aren't expected to hit the market until 2017 or later.

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3:30 p.m.

The head of pharmaceutical company Mylan is defending the cost for life-saving EpiPens, signaling the company has no plans to lower prices despite a public outcry and questions from skeptical lawmakers.

In testimony for Congress, CEO Heather Bresch says she believes Mylan has struck a balance between price and access to the drug. The price of EpiPens has grown to $608 for a two-pack, an increase of more than 500 percent since 2007.

Bresch says the company does not want to go back to a time when awareness of allergic reactions was much lower and many schools did not stock the drug.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is questioning Bresch about the pricing.

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