EpiPen maker's CEO takes bipartisan beating

EpiPen maker's CEO takes bipartisan beating
© Greg Nash

The CEO of the EpiPen’s maker took a bipartisan beating on Capitol Hill on Wednesday as she attempted to defend the recent price hikes of the allergy shot. 

Tensions erupted during the contentious two-hour hearing, as Mylan CEO Heather Bresch was repeatedly interrupted by visibly angry lawmakers. 

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Most accused her of exploiting people with life-threatening allergies in the pursuit of profit, while many pointed out her $18 million salary. 

Bresch, whose father is Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSenators restart shutdown talks — and quickly hit roadblocks This week: No signs of urgency as shutdown enters fourth week Senate immigration talks fall apart MORE (D-W.Va.), found no friends on either side of the aisle, taking shots from every corner of the at-times packed hearing room.

As Bresch tried to describe efforts to make cheaper, generic versions of the EpiPen, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzTop Utah paper knocks Chaffetz as he mulls run for governor: ‘His political career should be over’ Boehner working on memoir: report Former GOP lawmaker on death of 7-year-old migrant girl: Message should be ‘don't make this journey, it will kill you' MORE (R-Utah) kept the attention on the company’s profits. 

Rattling off the prices of EpiPens over several years, Chaffetz dismissed Bresch’s argument that her company’s profits were actually declining as they tried to make the drug more available and expand rebates. 

“This is why we don’t believe you,” Chaffetz said.

He said the company’s profit from a generic version of the drug that sold for $300 was actually higher than what it made from its own version of the drug, which sold for $608 — a point Bresch disputed.

Bresch, who has spent 22 years at the pharmaceutical giant, was sharply scrutinized as she set out to correct her company’s record on EpiPen access. 

“I think many people incorrectly assume that we make $600 off each pack. It’s simply not true,” Bresch said. “I think what is incorrectly assumed is that $608 is what Mylan received. We receive $200.”

But Chaffetz and other lawmakers repeatedly questioned Bresch’s responses to their questions. 

“I don’t know that I believe you,” Chaffetz again repeated. Later, Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) also pressed Bresch about the financial picture she presented. 

“Your numbers don’t work based on the documents you’ve given us,” Lynch said, raising his voice. 

In a particularly tense exchange, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) questioned Bresch about a report by USA Today this week that said her mother had misused her clout on a school board to help boost EpiPen sales. 

“Your own mother is lobbying to make sure they’re in your schools,” Duckworth, who is running for Senate this fall, shouted, holding up a copy of the newspaper.

Bresch interrupted: “I’m sorry, Congressman. That is completely inaccurate.”

Earlier in the hearing, Bresch had strongly denied the report detailing a concerted effort by Gayle Manchin — Bresch's mother, the Democratic senator’s wife and the then-president of the National Association of State Boards of Education — to push state lawmakers to support legislation mandating school systems to buy anti-allergy devices, such as EpiPens, back in 2012.

“While people may want to criticize Mylan for giving away free pens ... I thought it was a very cheap shot to bring my mother into this,” she said, making her first public comment about the article. 

The same year Gayle Manchin served as president of the National Association of State Boards of Education, it announced an “epinephrine policy initiative” to promote access to epinephrine auto-injectors such as EpiPens. Around the same time, Mylan launched its "EpiPen4Schools” program, in which more than 700,000 free devices were given out to about half of the nation’s schools.

Mylan said Wednesday that the program grew out of concerns over the "complete lack of awareness and access to this product."