In a rare showing of bipartisanship, the top New Hampshire political leaders are all seeking answers from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Mylan, the manufacturer of EpiPen, after a dramatic increase in cost for the allergy treatment sparked public criticism.
Democrat Gov. Maggie Hassan sent a letter to the FDA on Monday asking the agency to ensure that there are affordable and safe generic versions of treatment available “as quickly as possible.”
“Many Granite Staters have expressed their concerns about the impact of this price hike, especially as families are preparing to send their children back to school and needing to keep them safe from severe allergies,” Hassan wrote. “As those who care for children with severe allergies know all too well, an EpiPen can make the difference between life and death in an emergency. And carrying expired pens, as many families have been forced to do in light of these radically increased prices, puts those lives at risk.”
Mylan announced Monday that it would start selling a cheaper version of treatment after a flood of complaints over the cost of the medicine has climbed to $608 for a two-pack, making it unaffordable for many patients. The cheaper version would be half the current cost of the product. The emergency injection treatment was about $100 in 2009.
Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte said she also supports getting answers from the company. She sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services asking what impact the recent EpiPen price increase has had on the government’s prescription drug costs.
She supports a bipartisan letter from Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Ia., asking the FDA to answer questions about its approval process of alternative medicines.
“EpiPens literally serve as life-lines for millions of people who are at risk of suffering an emergency allergic reaction,” Ayotte said in a statement to NH Journal. “These price increases are so drastic and sudden that they must be fully investigated, and I have previously expressed my support for Judiciary Committee Chairman Grassley’s efforts to get answers from Mylan.”
Democrat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen echoed the urgency of her colleagues and said the company should change the cost.
“Mylan’s price hike of the EpiPen is not only appalling, it’s extremely dangerous,” Shaheen said in a statement to NH Journal. “These are life saving devices and this new price tag puts them out of reach for many Americans. Mylan should immediately reverse its decision.”
Several Congressional committees have sent letters to Mylan, requesting more information from the company about the price increase over the past several years, and to the FDA asking about competitive products on the market.
The Senate Aging Committee, led by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., requested last week a briefing from Mylan, which Ayotte said she also supported.
Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform launched an investigation into the EpiPen price increases. The committee requested a briefing by September 6 and documents by September 12, which could lead to a congressional hearing.
“Millions of people rely on EpiPens, and it’s critical that they are affordable for families in New Hampshire and across the country,” said Rep. Ann Kuster in a statement to NH Journal. “I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress, the FDA, and drug producers to find a solution that ensures everyone who needs this lifesaving medication is able to obtain it.”
The House Energy and Commerce Committee also sent a letter on Monday to the FDA seeking more information about having a competitive prescription drug market.
“I’m concerned Granite State kids, whose parents may not be able to afford price hikes, may be in danger,” said Rep. Frank Guinta in a statement to NH Journal. “I voted for the 21st Century Cures Act to speed up FDA approvals, in order to produce more treatment options and lower prices. I’m hopeful the Senate will approve its most important elements soon.”
Hassan requested that the FDA make recommendations for potential legislation to address future concerns.
“I also ask that you provide recommendations for potential legislative remedies to help address similar concerns going forward,” she wrote, “and ensure that the FDA has the authority and resources it needs to help prevent similar situations from arising in the future.”