We Are All Pharma-Bro Suckers

"Pharma Bro" Martin Shkreli became one of the most notorious people in America for hiking the price of a rarely used life-saving drug by 4,000 percent in September of 2015.

And nearly a year later, dozens of reports are now coming out about how Mylan Pharmaceuticals hiked the price of the very common life-saving EpiPen by over 450% since Mylan bought EpiPen in 2007.

You've probably heard of EpiPens, and you probably know someone who needs to carry two around with them at all times, just in case they have a severe allergic reaction as a result of some everyday occurrence: for example, encountering a food product with peanuts or being stung by a bee.

ABC News reports that "The website Good Rx, … currently lists EpiPens as costing around $600 at multiple drug stores. In 2007, when Mylan Pharmaceuticals took over producing the drug from Merck, the cash price of the pens was about $50.".

And Bloomberg reports that the device only contains about $1 - ONE DOLLAR - worth of epinephrine.

But it's not the epinephrine that makes EpiPens unique, it’s the precision delivery system, the "Pen," that makes the product special.

And that delivery system really hasn't changed since 1977 when the EpiPen hit the market.

So why did the price jump up from $57 in 2007? Why are patients paying over $600 for two pens less than a decade later?

Because of the greed at Mylan Pharmaceuticals, plain and simple.

Cynthia Koons and Robert Langreth at Bloomberg wrote last year about "How Marketing Turned the EpiPen Into A Billion-Dollar Business."

The report details how Mylan bought EpiPen from Merck and then aggressively marketed the drug to concerned parents while increasing prices annually.

That strategy boosted the revenues from EpiPens by more than $1 BILLION, from $200 million in revenues in 2007, up to $1.2 BILLION in 2015.

That strategy worked so well for Mylan that by 2015, EpiPen represented 40% of Mylan's operating profits, according to ABR/Healthco estimates.

A report from NBC News shows that during that same period Mylan CEO Heather Bresch's total compensation increased from $2.5 million dollars to nearly $19 million dollars - a 671% increase!

The stock price also more than tripled from $13.29 in 2007 to $47.59 in 2015, and according to OpenSecrets, the company's lobbying efforts spiked from $270,000 to $1.2 million dollars in 2008, resulting in changes in FDA guidelines that directly benefited the company's bottom line - while patients still saw annual price increases.

That strategy of aggressive marketing, price hikes, and intense lobbying efforts also feeds the problem that Senator Bernie Sanders spotlighted on the campaign trail last year: Americans pay the highest prices for prescription drugs in the entire world, because the pharmaceutical companies take Americans for suckers.


stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 7 years 43 weeks ago

It's just further proof the rich and powerful want poor people to DIE.

Helen Willis 7 years 43 weeks ago

I think it's more that at least some of them just don't care if poor people die. Being unworthy of even being considered worthy of life is I think worse than being hated.

I wonder though how a rich family with a much-loved child with life threatening allergies feels about this story. I would think they would feel the same outrage as the rest of us.

Call To Account's picture
Call To Account 7 years 43 weeks ago

Sociopaths of a feather-- Venal CEO Heather Bresch's father is none other than venal, republican loving blue-dog democrat Senator Joe Manchin. ...

DownWithTyranny!: U.S. Senator Joe Manchin's Daughter-- the Next ...downwithtyranny.blogspot.com/2016/.../us-senator-joe-manchins-daughter-next.html...

1 day ago - She's the daughter of US Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV). She finished her BA in political science at West Virginia University (WVU) and was ...

douglas m 7 years 43 weeks ago

What needs to happen is we need to make a law that puts politcians in jail when they dont honor their oath. To protect the public. Some pharmacy just bought a canadain pharmacy on the radio i heard this morning. So have santioned companies unless they are competitive and if they are nit invite companies that are to sell to U.S. Distributors only.

CitizensArrest's picture
CitizensArrest 7 years 43 weeks ago

It's not entirely correct to merely blame Big Pharma when Wall St has their hand deep inside Big Pharma's back and is making them jump and speak. It's not the desire to make massive profits on the part of Big Pharma as much as it's the need for them to meet the expectations of "shareholders" and investors who desire ever increasing ROI's. William K. Black describes the dynamic very well:


To over simplify, the only way to get that done in the time required by Wall St. is to massively mark up the prices of existing drugs. New product innovation can't get that done in the very short time required of Big Pharma by their puppet masters.

Legend 7 years 43 weeks ago

There is obviously no end to greed. Regulations combat greed.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 7 years 43 weeks ago

Just another fine example of unregulated monopoly capitalism. While much of the rest of the world is showing us how well Democratic Socialism works, we're still having to deal with the idiocy of $600 dollar EpiPens.

I wonder if an employee in the EpiPen manufacturing plant has needed a pen and died because he or she couldn't afford one? That's how we roll in Merica! Well we know a few EpiPen CEO's are fat and happy anyway.

Unrelated: Why is Clinton letting Dangerous Donny put her on defense? Why aren't the Dems screaming about his up coming court case related to the Trump University scam? Yes, Trump can still be charged with felony fraud. Pence would become President when the verdict is reached. Why aren't the Dems talking about Trump's rape charges? How about his sex maniac advisor Roger Ailes, the biggest scandal since Bill Cosby? How about the thousands of unpaid contractors? Clinton is letting Trump and the media rip her apart.

Offense, Offense, Offense ...the Dems are so damn feeble. It's too late to be polite.

arky12's picture
arky12 7 years 43 weeks ago

Watching Thom Hartmann show today a few callers brought up the subject of a democratic leaning voter in a sea of Republicans and I hear that all the time from Democrats. We have political candidates in Arkansas that have been intimidated into switching parties for fear of losing their jobs. We have citizens who won't put a bumper sticker on their car for fear of retaliation. People that don't want to put a yard sign up for the same reason, fear. When did it become a bad thing to be a democrat in this state? I'll tell you when, the day the Koch's sent their propaganda front group Americans for (Koch) Prosperity bus into the State back in 2011 to spread their venom. Republicans use fear, hate, racism and intimidation tactics to win elections. As an American who values democracy and American values I refuse to be intimidated by right wing nut jobs who threaten violence if I don't give up my "liberal" ways. Since when is it a crime to be a Liberal Democrat? Democrats in this state are cowing down to the Republican bullies and I won't have it. Stand up for what we believe in and stop caving to the damned bully Republicans. I know this because I am a Democrat in my County and volunteer at our headquarters and have people tell me that all the time. Not all, but way too many.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 7 years 43 weeks ago

ckrob: You're getting Democratic Socialism confused with corporate welfare...or something. Unlike the rich capitalists who employ guys like you, Democratic Socialists are hard working citizens, and are dedicated to economic justice for all.

stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 7 years 43 weeks ago
Quote arky12: Republicans use fear, hate, racism and intimidation tactics to win elections.

Didn't the Nazis use the same tactics to gain power in the 1930's Germany?

ckrob's picture
ckrob 7 years 43 weeks ago

Off topic:

Remember, no one else can work better to build the world you want to live in. Tag you're it!

Fanchon88's picture
Fanchon88 7 years 43 weeks ago

Thank you, Thom, for your ongoing eye-opening daily blogs! I just listened to "Screwed" and am thrilled to find that my library in South Lake Tahoe has your books. I am hearing private jets taking off and landing around the clock this beautiful summer. But the "locals" -- the hospitality workers and working poor who live here year round -- we're angry and eager to learn and do all we can. . . . I married a Vietnam vet (now deceased) whose half-Vietnamese daughter has had three kids. They're having kids and more kids. They are collecting tats, eating junk food, smoking -- and too stupid to get married! My brother was disdainful toward Kim's little ones. They had high IQ's and were nice-looking. I feel that our children are the future of the country! Even the snot-nosed welfare brats -- especially them! We need to catch up all the youngsters in the best healthcare and education we can manage. If we can educate their parents somehow and undo the bad work of aggressive marketing, that would help.

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