Mylan launches generic EpiPen as its sued by 20 states over generics price-fixing

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Mylan announced the launch of the authorized generic of its allergic reaction autoinjector treatment, EpiPen. Although the launch fulfilled a promise the pharmaceutical company made months ago, it came only hours after 20 states filed a lawsuit over Mylan’s pricing of other generic drugs.

The complaint alleged Mylan, along with other generic pharmaceutical manufacturers Heritage, Aurobindo, Citron, Mayne and Teva, “conspired to maintain market share, avoid competition and fix prices in order to manipulate and raise the prices of two generic drugs: doxycycline hyclate delayed release, an antibiotic, and glyburide, an oral diabetes medication.”

“Generic drugs play a vital role in keeping health care costs down and making medication affordable to those who need it, and companies that fix prices to illegally profit and drive up prescription drug costs must be held accountable,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.

Connecticut is leading the lawsuit, along with other plaintiff states including Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington.

The suit said while generics manufacturers would publicly blame price increases on factors like industry consolidation or regulators closing facilities, the real reason was collusion.

“The Defendants exploit their interactions at various and frequent industry trade shows, customer conferences and other similar events, to develop relationships and sow the seeds for their illegal agreements,” the lawsuit said. “This anticompetitive conduct -- schemes to fix and maintain prices, allocate markets and otherwise thwart competition – has caused a significant, lasting and ultimately harmful rippling effect in the United States healthcare system, which is still ongoing today.”

Mylan and Teva denied the allegations to Reuters.

A day after the lawsuit was filed, Mylan went ahead with the launch of its generic version of EpiPen. The move followed months of criticism, including congressional scrutiny, over the 400 percent hike in prices for the device since Mylan acquired it in 2007.

A two-pack of the generic version will go for $300, according to Mylan. It’s a lower price tag than the $609 branded version, but still well above what is charged in other countries. In France, for instance, a two-pack costs about $100.

In the Mylan press release, CEO Heather Bresch again blamed the pricing problems on market forces outside the control of pharma companies.

“Pharmaceutical pricing is too far removed from the patient at the pharmacy counter and not designed for today's increasingly consumerized healthcare system,” Bresch said. “Every day, escalating out-of-pocket costs impact a new patient population; however, this broader systemic issue will not be solved in a meaningful and sustainable way by our industry's one-off, reactive responses. This is an issue that will impact virtually every family on a high deductible plan, regardless of what medicine they are taking.”

The scrutiny over drug prices isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. Members of Congress have already promised to introduce new legislation in 2017 targeting price transparency and greater regulation, while President-elect Donald Trump has said he’s “going down to bring down drug prices.”

Drug companies’ largest lobbying group, the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Research of America, looks ready for an expensive policy fight, raising dues to amass a “war chest” to fight greater regulation.