Grassley presses EpiPen maker on 400 percent price increase

Grassley presses EpiPen maker on 400 percent price increase
© Greg Nash

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyConnect Beltway to America to get federal criminal justice reform done Schumer to meet with Kavanaugh on Tuesday Dems threaten to sue for Kavanaugh records MORE (R-Iowa) is asking the maker of EpiPens to explain sharp increases in the device's price. 

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Grassley wrote a letter to Mylan, the company that makes EpiPens, asking for an explanation of a 400 percent increase in the price since 2007. 

“The substantial price increase has caused significant concern among patients,” Grassley, who is up for reelection this year, wrote in a letter to the company. “I have heard from one father in Iowa who recently purchased a refill of his daughter’s EpiPen prescription. He reported that to fill the prescription, he had to pay over $500 for one EpiPen.”

The cost of the widely used device, which injects epinephrine as a treatment for serious allergic reactions, has been receiving growing attention. 

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharThe Hill's Morning Report — GOP seeks to hold Trump’s gains in Midwest states Tina Smith defeats former Bush ethics lawyer in Minnesota Dem primary Live results: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Vermont, Connecticut hold primaries MORE (D-Minn.) sent a separate letter on Monday, calling for a Federal Trade Commission investigation of whether Mylan committed anti-trust violations surrounding its pricing of EpiPens.

The issue of rising drug prices more broadly has been a hot topic on the campaign trail, particularly for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPapadopoulos's wife wants him to scrap plea deal with Mueller: report FBI chief: I'm trying to bring 'normalcy' in 'turbulent times' Senate Intel chief slams ex-CIA director for timing of claims about Trump-Russia ties MORE

Grassley, who has been targeted by Democrats in this fall's election, has been one of the Republicans who has put the most spotlight on the issue.

For example, he sponsored a bipartisan bill with Klobuchar to crack down on deals where brand-name pharmaceutical companies pay makers of cheaper generic drugs to keep the alternative off the market. 

The Obama administration has also been looking for ways to fight high drug prices, and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services acting Administrator Andy Slavitt tweeted about EpiPen prices on Sunday. 

In a statement in response to Grassley's letter, Mylan pointed to its programs that give discounts on EpiPens and said that 700,000 free ones have been given to schools since 2013. 

The company also pointed to higher deductibles in insurance plans as leaving consumers more exposed to the price. "This shift has presented new challenges for consumers, and they are bearing more of the cost," Mylan said. "This change to the industry is not an easy challenge to address, but we recognize the need and are committed to working with customers and payors to find solutions to meet the needs of the patients and families we serve.”

Grassley also warned that the cost of EpiPens could be a drain on taxpayers through coverage in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. He asks Mylan a series of questions about how it arrived at its price and what discount programs it offers. 

“In the case of EpiPens, I am concerned that the substantial price increase could limit access to a much-needed medication,” Grassley writes. “In addition, it could create an unsafe situation for patients as people, untrained in medical procedures, are incentivized to make their own kits from raw materials.”

This story was last updated at 5:37 p.m.