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Standing Up For Consumers

What, one may wonder, can the attorney general of a small state such as West Virginia do about the outrageous pricing of a lifesaving device by an international pharmaceuticals giant?

Not much, perhaps. But good for West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey for trying.

One of the primary duties of Morrisey’s office is safeguarding Mountain State consumers. Clearly, those with potentially life-threatening allergies need someone to defend them against Mylan Pharmaceuticals.

Mylan produces and sells the EpiPen, a device that can be used to inject a dose of a drug that can counteract severe allergic reactions. Some people carry EpiPens with them wherever they go.

When Mylan bought the rights to the device in 2007, a package of two cost about $100. The price tag now is more than $600. Mylan reaps enormous profits from the EpiPen.

But the company and its CEO, Heather Bresch, have been under fire for several weeks because of the steep escalation in EpiPen prices. In reaction to the unfavorable publicity — and an investigation by Congress — Mylan noted it offers coupons that can reduce the cost by about half. The company also announced it will provide a generic version costing about $300.

As we have noted previously, part of the problem is a lack of competition. Companies seeking to market devices similar to the EpiPen have had trouble getting approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

Still, a 500-percent price hike in less than 10 years raises eyebrows.

Morrisey’s office is asking a Kanawha County circuit judge to force Mylan to cooperate with a state investigation concerning EpiPen pricing. The attorney general said he is looking into possible state antitrust and Medicaid rebate issues.

Mylan is a large corporation, headquartered in the Netherlands. It may be that the company’s executives and attorneys do not lose much sleep over Morrisey’s action.

Regardless, if the attorney general has concerns over the legality of Mylan’s EpiPen pricing, he is right to challenge the company. Someone has to stand up for Mountain State consumers, after all.

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