Mylan takes 'full responsibility' for EpiPen price hikes, but Sen. Grassley still wants answers

Appearing at a healthcare conference on Thursday, Mylan CEO Heather Bresch said her company takes “full responsibility” for the EpiPen price hikes that have enveloped the drugmaker in a bruising controversy for several months. But that won’t be enough to assuage Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who is upset that she was able to attend the talk despite declining an invitation to testify at his Senate hearing.

Sen. Grassley previously requested that federal officials and Mylan representatives provide more information about the company’s announced $465 million dollar settlement relating to Medicaid overpayments on the big-selling epinephrine injector. All parties declined to attend.

Speaking on Thursday, Bresch told Forbes’ Matthew Herper that the company noticed a “very underserved patient population” when it first bought EpiPen. Since then, it’s “embarked on investing over the last eight years over a billion dollars in creating access and awareness and improving the product,” she said.

Over that time, prices for the lifesaving product have skyrocketed by more than 400%, leading to an onslaught of public and political outrage when out-of-pocket costs started grabbing headlines late this summer. In response, lawmakers have called for investigations and Mylan announced a settlement with the Justice Department related to the epinephrine injector’s misclassification on Medicaid.

In a statement, Sen. Grassley said drug companies “should remember their significant relationship with the public and taxpayers via their participation in government programs.” He said companies have an obligation to answer questions by senators who represent the will of public.

“If CEOs can voluntarily appear at health summits, surely they should voluntarily appear before a Senate committee,” Sen. Grassley said in a statement.

The latest round of criticism comes after months of challenges for Mylan, first kicking off in August with reports of high EpiPen price hikes. Since then, reports of the Medicaid misclassification surfaced and Mylan quickly announced a settlement related to that issue that sees it admit no responsibility. Some officials have criticized that $465 million deal, asking the DOJ to dig deeper.

In response to the controversy, Mylan has increased its patient assistance programs and announced it would launch an authorized generic to EpiPen at half the price. Bresch has also laid some blame with pharma middlemen, who she says incentivize high drug costs.