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September, 30, 2016

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Mylan CEO defends soaring EpiPen costs

WASHINGTON -- Outraged Republican and Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday grilled the head of pharmaceutical company Mylan about the significant cost increase of its life-saving EpiPens and the profits for a company with sales in excess of US$11 billion.

Defending the company's business practices, Mylan CEO Heather Bresch told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that she wishes the company had "better anticipated the magnitude and acceleration" of the rising prices for some families.

"We never intended this," Bresch said, but maintained that her company doesn't make much profit from each emergency allergy shot and signaled the company has no plans to lower prices.

The list price of EpiPens has grown to US$608 for a two-pack, an increase of more than 500 percent since 2007. Parents who rely on multiple EpiPens to respond when their children have allergic reactions, whether at home or at sporting events, have lashed out at Mylan in growing public outcry.

In nearly four hours of questioning, the soft-spoken CEO often seemed unsure, or declined to answer directly, when asked about the firm's finances and profits, infuriating lawmakers. "You could make this thing go away by being honest and candid, but I don't think you are," House Oversight Chairman Representative Jason Chaffetz told Bresch as he ended the hearing. Afterward, Chaffetz told reporters he thought Bresch created more problems with her vague testimony.

The frustration was bipartisan. Maryland Representative Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the oversight panel, compared Bresch's answers to a game of "hide the ball."

Bresch found little sympathy in the room. In response to one question, Bresch acknowledged that she made US$18 million in salary last year.

"Sounds like you're doing pretty well on this," said Representative John Mica.

Chaffetz said high executive pay at Mylan "doesn't add up for a lot of people" as the EpiPen price has increased. He said executives for the company made US$300 million over five years while the list price for a pair of the allergy shots rose.

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