EpiPen furor brings protesters to Mylan’s headquarters
August 31, 2016 1:08 AM
Rachael Viehman, 34. of Squirrel Hill holds her EpiPens that she keeps nearby for her 10-month-old son Robert, who has a dairy allergy.
Rachael Viehman, 34, of Squirrel Hill, holds two EpiPens that she keeps with her if she needs to inject her 10-month-old son, Robert, who is with her and is allergic to dairy products. She spoke during a protest Tuesday at Mylan’s Southpointe headquarters in Cecil.
Jim Ferlo, a former state senator and Pittsburgh City Council member, speaks with reporters at a protest Tuesday at Mylan headquarters in Cecil. Activists delivered a petition with more than 700,000 signatures to the company in protest of its price increases for EpiPens.
Rick Claypool, far left, of Leechburg and Michael Bagdes-Canning of Emlenton, Pa., carry boxes of petitions to Mylan’s Cecil headquarters on Tuesday.
Pete Mamula , a retired steelworker from Oakdale, participates in the protest Tuesday in front of Mylan's visitor entrance at the company's Cecil headquarters.
Former Pennsylvania State Senator Jim Ferlo speaks to the media at an event at Mylan headquarters in Cecil. Activists delivered a petition with more than 700,000 signatures to the company in protest of price increases for EpiPens.
By Patricia Sabatini / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
With Mylan’s offices on a hill in Cecil shielded behind a fortress of security guards Tuesday, slings and arrows were being leveled below as the uproar that has been building nationally in recent weeks continued over the high cost of the drug maker’s lifesaving EpiPen.
Roughly two dozen people led by the watchdog group Public Citizen gathered outside to express disgust over the skyrocketing cost of the auto-injector whose price has surged some 500 percent in recent years. Hundreds of thousands of people have signed on to petitions backing that view, and the group delivered the piles of paper to prove it.
“No one should be forced to choose between buying a lifesaving medicine and buying groceries,” said Rick Claypool, Pittsburgh resident and a research director at Public Citizen. “Not one life should be put at risk because of corporate greed.”
The company, which has been taking steps over the past several days to defend its product and pricing decisions, as well as help some customers better afford the medicine, sent out a spokesman to greet the uninvited visitors and assure them that it’s paying attention.
Mylan, which is known for its generic drugs but has been expanding into brands, has come under increasing fire in recent weeks from lawmakers, consumer groups and others accusing the company of price-gouging. This week, the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said it has launched an investigation into the pricing of EpiPen.
In the wake of the outcry, which has further fueled a national debate about the escalating cost of prescription drugs, Mylan has offered a savings card and other ways for people to lower their out-of-pocket costs. On Monday, the company announced it would make a lower-cost generic version of the EpiPen available in coming weeks, but it has not moved to lower the list price of the brand name EpiPen.
Outside Mylan’s Southpointe headquarters Tuesday, Mr. Claypool called on the company to roll back its “unconscionable price hike” for the EpiPen to where it stood in 2007 at around $100 a pair. Since then, the price of the EpiPen two-pack — which delivers epinephrine to counteract severe food and bee sting allergies — has soared to around $600.
Rachael Viehman of Squirrel Hill said she came to protest on behalf of millions of parents who carry EpiPens for their children. Ms. Viehman has a 10-month-old son and a 5-year-old daughter with severe allergies to dairy products.
She said there was “no moral or economic justification” for the price hikes.
A few months ago, Ms. Viehman said, she had to use an EpiPen for the first time on her 5-year-old. “It was a horrible, terrifying experience. I have no doubt it saved her life.”
“People shouldn’t have to choose between [buying EpiPens] and sending their children off with clothes that fit or school supplies,” she said.
Several protesters, including retired state senator Jim Ferlo, criticized Mylan for paying CEO Heather Bresch nearly $19 million last year funded in part by collecting “super profits” on the EpiPen. “I consider this morally repugnant behavior by this CEO,” Mr. Ferlo said.
The protesters also delivered petitions, signed by some 700,000 people, demanding an end to the “price gouging.”
The group was stopped at the end of the company’s driveway and instructed to load the petitions on a dolly. Security guards and other law enforcement rimmed the perimeter of the building.
Standing at the end of the driveway, Mylan spokesman Mike Laffin said executives “appreciate and respect everybody’s opinions shared today.”
“We are going to review all of this,” he said, declining to answer questions.
Earlier, Mr. Ferlo and others called on Congress to enact reforms to ensure that expensive life-saving medications, including cancer and hepatitis drugs, can be afforded by everyone who needs them.
“Health care is a human right,” said Ed Grystar, chair of the Western Pennsylvania Coalition for Single-Payer Healthcare.
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