Schrader advances EpiPen solution bill

Kurt-schrader Congressman Kurt Schrader
A bill to encourage faster development of generic drugs has picked up 13 co-sponsors since the pricing controversy over anti-allergy EpiPen auto-injectors erupted, prompting its sponsor to hope it passes this year.

“The more we wait, the more they’ll rip off the consumer,” Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., said Friday.

Schrader introduced the bill with Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., in March in response to Turing Pharmaceutical’s decision to raise the price of Daraprim, used to treat life-threatening toxoplasmosis, from $13.50 to $750.

“Some of our most vulnerable constituents depend on access to life-saving pharmaceuticals,” Schrader said. “We know many of these patients’ costs could be lowered if generic competitors were available. Our bipartisan proposal will encourage generic competition, lower drug costs, and allow treatments to come to market faster.”

Schrader and Bilirakis were the only sponsors of the bill until Sept. 6. Since then, 10 Democrats and three Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors, citing the EpiPen pricing issue.

Blue Dog Democrats, a group of 14 fiscal conservatives co-chaired by Schrader, endorsed the bill Wednesday as Mylan Pharmaceutical CEO Heather Bresch defended the company’s EpiPen price hike before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The injector, used to treat anaphylaxis caused by food allergies or bee stings with the hormone epinephrine, went from $100 in 2007 to $608 for a two-pack today.

Bresch told lawmakers most people don’t pay the list price. She said 85 percent of people using EpiPens pay less than $100 for the two-pack and more than 50 percent pay less than $50.

Chip Davis, president of the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, noted that AARP has identified brand and specialty drugs as “the key drivers of rising drug costs” while generic drug prices “continue to decline.”

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which represents drug companies, did not immediately respond Friday to a request for comment on Schrader’s bill.

Mylan acquired the rights to the EpiPen nine years ago. No equivalent generic alternative is available.

Schrader’s bill would encourage drug companies to develop generic versions of their branded products and accelerate the process the Food and Drug Administration takes to approve them so a product could hit the market within six months. A similar Senate bill was introduced by Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Susan Collins, R-Maine.

Schrader, in an interview in his office Friday, called it a “good, market-based approach” that would spur competition and prevent price gouging by limiting the time any company had monopoly control over a drug product.

He said two companies are already considering generic versions of an epinephrine-delivery drug, as is Mylan.

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