Some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle aren't pleased with Mylan's decision to reduce the cost of an EpiPen for some customers, saying the move does not go far enough.
Mylan announced on Thursday that it is using a savings card to reduce the price of the allergy treatment EpiPen by up to $300, or roughly half the cost of a pack of two. The move didn't sit well with Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who had been calling for hearings on the price spike.
"Offering a meager discount only after widespread bipartisan criticism is exactly the same tactic used by drug companies across the industry to distract from their exorbitant price increases," he said. "Nobody is buying this PR move anymore."
Cummings said Mylan shouldn't offer "after-the-fact" discounts to a select few, but instead reverse the price increase.
"Drug company CEOs are using a corrupt business model to profit off of our most vulnerable citizens and using them like ATMs," he added.
Cummings is the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and has asked for a hearing on Mylan's price increase. He has investigated price hikes for several generic drugs with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., also called Mylan's decision a "baby step."
"This step seems like a PR fix more than a real remedy, masking an exorbitant and callous price hike," he said.
Blumenthal previously called for a congressional investigation and for the Federal Trade Commission to get involved.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, who has helped spearhead an investigation into high generic drug prices, appeared fed up with the response.
"I'm tired of playing whack-a-mole with these pharmaceutical companies that are obviously grabbing obscene profits while they have a monopoly," said McCaskill, the top Democrat on the Senate Special Committee on Aging which has conducted the pricing investigation. "Rebates help, but ultimately these price increases are showing a market failure that Americans are paying for."
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, also questioned the move by Mylan.
"The announcement today doesn't appear to change the product price," Grassley said. "The price is what Medicare, Medicaid and insurance companies pay. It's what patients who don't get assistance cards pay."
He added that when drug companies use assistance cards, it is not clear how many patients benefit from them.
Grassley previously asked Mylan to justify the pricing decision and said Thursday he continues to expect a response to his queries.
Other lawmakers were more accommodating.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., called the Mylan decision a "welcome relief" for patients and families. She then launched a broader critique at the pharmaceutical industry.
"We cannot rely on public outcry as the only solution to high prescription drug prices," she said.
Klobuchar unsuccessfully pushed to grant Medicare the power to negotiate with drug makers, which is currently forbidden under federal law.
Other lawmakers were more circumspect about the price hike.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has been on the hot seat after it was revealed that the CEO of Mylan, Heather Bresch, is his daughter.
Manchin addressed the price increase in a statement Thursday that said he was "aware" of questions being asked about the price and he "share their concerns."
However, the statement did not address Manchin's family ties to Mylan.
"Today I heard Mylan's initial response, and I am sure Mylan will have a more comprehensive and formal response to these questions," he said.
Lawmakers weren't the only ones upset over Mylan's decision. The citizen advocacy group Public Citizen called the use of a card a "false solution."
"First, many consumers will not use the coupons or the programs," the group said. "Second, many consumers with high deductibles or no insurance will still need to pay far too much for EpiPens — $300 for a set of two — a problem made worse by the fact that many families purchase multiple sets of EpiPens and that EpiPens must be replaced every year."
Mylan also is doubling the eligibility of its patient assistance program to help underinsured and uninsured patients.