Bioethics Blogs

Web Roundup: Controversy and Commerce by Sara M Bergstresser

There have been many controversies about substantial and sudden jumps in pharmaceutical prices, the most memorable/infamous surrounding Martin Shkreli, the [widely despised and thoroughly unrepentant] former CEO of the drug company Turing, and the 5000% increase in the price of a drug used by many AIDS patients. Similar questions of impropriety have been raised by the practices of Valeant Pharmaceuticals, which has become known for the practice of bypassing research and development by buying up smaller companies and then jacking up the prices of their existing drugs.

The newest pharma pricing outrage involves the Epipen emergency allergy device, and the CEO antihero of the moment is Heather Bresch of Mylan. “Mylan has raised the list price of EpiPens more than 450 percent since 2004, after adjusting for inflation, according to Elsevier’s Gold Standard Drug Database. A pack of two EpiPens cost about $100 in today’s dollars in 2004, but the list price now tops $600.” (STAT news). The controversy now includes inquiries from the Senate about Mylan’s drug pricing, descriptions of how Mylan prevented Teva from manufacturing a generic version, frustrations with coupon and discount programs, and questions about the validity of Bresch’s MBA and the role of her being the daughter of a US Senator. Bresch’s statement that “No one’s more frustrated than me” (about the price increase) drew widespread ire, particularly from parents of children with severe allergies.

Josh Freeman of the blog Medicine and Social Justice clearly explains how these events are a symptom of the larger problems of health care in the US, which driven by commerce rather than health.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.