As EpiPen prices soar, Sen. Paul hopes bill creates more competition, cheaper prices for generics

09/09/2016 09:48 PM

LOUISVILLE — While he may have to tangle with one of the world’s largest drugmakers to get legislation aimed at getting more generic versions of the EpiPen in the marketplace, Sen. Rand Paul said Friday that he hopes others in the pharmaceutical industry will see opportunity.

The price of EpiPen two-packs has surged to $600, up from $57 in 2007, sparking outrage across the U.S. The dramatic increase has caused many to accuse EpiPen’s manufacturer, Mylan Pharmaceuticals, of price gouging.

During a roundtable discussion with medical professionals at Jewish Hospital’s Rudd Heart and Lung Center, Paul said that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has made it difficult to introduce generic versions of the EpiPen, which injects epinephrine to treat severe allergic reactions, in the U.S.

What’s more, Paul said Mylan virtually holds a monopoly on the device until 2025, when its patent is set to expire. In 2009, Mylan filed a patent infringement lawsuit another drugmaker, Teva Pharmaceuticals, that was planning a generic version of the EpiPen.

The case was ultimately settled out of court in 2012, but the FDA has yet to approve Teva’s generic EpiPen.

“When you sue them, you get a 30-month stay automatically, so everybody sues every time,” Paul said.

Paul plans to file a bill that would make it easier to approve generic versions of the EpiPen that are already available in Europe, saying more competition would lower prices of the life-saving drug.

“What we’re hoping to do with our bill is to bring those drugs over here, have the committee at the FDA look at the studies, and then vote on whether to approve them,” Kentucky’s junior senator told reporters after the meeting.

Paul’s bill could be in the crosshairs of Pfizer, one of the globe’s largest drug companies that actually manufactures in the epinephrine used in EpiPens.

Asked about potential backlash on Capitol Hill from pharmaceutical companies, Paul said those that make generic EpiPens in Europe will likely back his proposal.

“If you’re a pharmaceutical company in Europe selling it, which may be an American company in Europe selling it, you may like it actually because it may be easier to get your drugs to market,” he said.

EpiPen prices and generics weren’t the only topic of conversation Friday as health professionals also shared their experiences combating the state’s heroin epidemic.

Dr. Charles Woods says he’s seen an uptick in the number of infants exposed to hepatitis C, and Dr. Kal Jundi has noticed the same trend with newborns born addicted to opiates.

In some cases, Jundi says he has treated multiple children from the same mother.

“The problem that we’ve always faced with them is that while they’re pregnant they qualify for Medicaid, which then gets them into the clinic, which then gets them the medication, which then is helpful, and then the baby has to be treated, which we treat,” he said.

“The thing is, people don’t understand the babies are not perfect afterwards. They’re still not an easy baby to care for. We send it to them at about 4 to 5 weeks of age, which is about the time that their Medicaid expireswhich then they cannot get the Subutex, which means they go back into heroin.”

Paul’s opponent in the Nov. 8 election, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, criticized Paul and other Republicans in Congress Sept. 1 for not including funding for the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act that was signed into law in July. Democrats are seeking about $600 million for the new law that targets opioid abuse.

Paul told reporters that he expects money for CARA will be appropriated as Congress crafts the federal budget.

“The interesting thing is it hasn’t really been a partisan issue,” he said. “Republicans and Democrats have come together on this. I’ve worked with the Democratic senator from Massachusetts on this, so I think it’s really an issue that shouldn’t divide us and be some thing that we have to bring up in a campaign. It’s not really that partisan. Drug overdoses are a travesty, and we should do everything possible to try to prevent them.”

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

1 Comments

Comments

  • viewer wrote on September 10, 2016 12:20 PM :

    Good morning friends. This setting, here at Jewish Hospital, is what Sen. Paul needs to do more of. This is where he excels. Now, that I have said that. Watch him run the complete opposite way going forward. Every time I brag on this man, it blows up in my face, and he goes back to talking about liberty, the Constitution, and freedom.

    Whether it be the presidential election contest or this U.S. Senate contest, here in Kentucky, we are getting nothing of substance. The ignorance we are receiving is only pushing us further into depression. Which came first? The chicken or the egg. Which political party? Which candidate or career politician is going to break loose and change this horrendous cycle that has taken hold of our elections? It is non-stop garbage, 30 second ads after 30 second ads. There is no leadership anywhere to be found.

    Sen. Paul says, in one of these clips, that capitalism is not broken. That is where I have to disagree. Everything is tied back to the government in one way or another. America is the only country, in the world, that doesn’t negotiate its pharma prices. Mylan Pharmaceuticals’ CEO said that 40% of their costs are on account of Congress. She didn’t call it pay to play. She just said that is what it takes to keep the lobbyists happy in Washington. Now, how can Mitch McConnell or Sen. Rand Paul say that they are not a part of this problem? They can’t.

    We have to deal with entitlement reform. Part of this problem is the cost of medicine. Well, if 40% of the mark-up is going to Congress and Super PACs, isn’t that a perfect place to begin to reduce the costs of entitlements? Can anyone deny this?

    Our hospitals and our medical services have been taken over by lawyers and special interest groups. I have a friend, who has a medical practice not affiliated with any hospitals or associations. He has three practicing physicians and about 15 other employees on staff. His business manager is the highest paid employee in the company. This includes himself. He has over 30 years of practicing medicine, and his business manager makes more money than he does. This is what is structurally wrong with the system, and he will be the first to tell you, that he is fortunate to not have to be apart of a large healthcare conglomerate. The majority of doctors, today, are getting out of private practice. It isn’t because they want to. It is because they are forced to by all of the regulations and costs in the business of healthcare today.

    I will give a little advice, to both Rand Paul and Jim Gray. Your campaigns need to buy 2 or 3 cameras with tripods. You need to bring in doctors, insurance company executives, etc. and have a sit down forum. Put that round table on YouTube. Go find business leaders and do it again. Put it on YouTube. Have a meeting with educators. Put it on YouTube. Whether it be the medical profession, education professionals, small business owners, we all feel like we have been left behind. We have lost our voice. These 30 second clips do nothing to change these feelings. We hear about all of these millions of dollars being put into these campaigns. Take a few hundred bucks and buy you some cameras. Start videoing these roundtables, so that we can hear what the public has to say. What the real people are experiencing. Jim Gray knows all the business leaders in central Kentucky. Why he doesn’t get a group of 10 to 20 together, bankers, builders, etc., talking about what they need and see is beyond me. I just shake my head over how these campaigns are being ran today. These campaigns are being ran just like the government- very poorly.

    I have been told that Rand Paul has not accepted the KET debate, as of last week. I do not consider the so-called KET debates to even be debates. They are not even very informative. We never get to the heart of the matter. The powers to be, at KET, is one of the biggest opponents against my debt structure, which would require the ones running for statewide offices, to participate in several debates across the state. I want to put together a bipartisan debate commission, to organize dates, for debates to be held across the state. Now, KET has had a good set up, for years. But, what is good for KET is not worth a dime for Kentuckians and for change to come to our failing political structure. Having more debates not only helps Kentuckians, but it also weeds out and exposes those politicians who hide behind campaign contributions. Leadership starts at the top. We have a lot of people who have a title by their name, who don’t have the substance or the ability to lead us anywhere and for sure not in the times we are facing today. There is a cause and effect of where we find ourselves today, friends. The monopoly that KET has in our politics, today, has to be addressed. This is one of the unacknowledged problems that this state faces. The public at home watching doesn’t realize the impact of KET’s self-preserving actions.

    If KET really cares about Kentuckians, they need to turn loose of their monopoly over this little debate and allow others a chance to host more. That 54 minutes doesn’t begin to address the series of issues that we are faced with today. They need to look at this with vision for the future because it is highly probable that they would air, live, the other debates held around the state, as well. We are all aware of the strangle hold King Coal and tobacco has had on this state. Well, their grip, of holding on to the past, isn’t much different than KET holding on to the political dialogue that this state hears, and more importantly what the state doesn’t get to hear. KET has done a lot of good for this state, but they have also been a huge hindrance to bringing change and real solutions to view. The viewer.

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