ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The state attorney general's office is investigating whether Mylan Pharmaceuticals unfairly limited competition for its emergency allergy treatment EpiPen, which has been criticized for steep price increases.
A preliminary review showed the company "may have inserted potentially anticompetitive terms" into sales contracts with many school systems, Democratic Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Tuesday.
"If Mylan engaged in anti-competitive business practices, or violated antitrust laws with the intent and effect of limiting lower cost competition, we will hold them accountable," Schneiderman said. "Allergy sufferers have enough concerns to worry about. The availability of life-saving medical treatment should not be one of them."
Subpoenas for company information were issued last week.
EpiPens are used in emergencies to treat severe allergic reactions to insect bites and foods including nuts that can lead to anaphylactic shock. They are auto-injectors, or spring-loaded syringes that provide single doses of the drug epinephrine, and can be administered by patients themselves or by untrained people.
The price has grown to $608 for a two-pack, up more than 500 percent since 2007. The drugmaker has announced it will launch a generic version that will cost $300 in the next several weeks.
Canonsburg, Pennsylvania-based Mylan N.V. said Tuesday that more than 700,000 free EpiPens have been distributed to 65,000 schools and it has dropped a previous purchase restriction for schools that wanted more at discounts.
"The program continues to adhere to all applicable laws and regulations," Mylan spokeswoman Nina Devlin said. "There are no purchase requirements for participation in the program, nor have there ever been to receive free EpiPen auto-injectors."
Meanwhile, a New York legislator introduced a bill to authorize pharmacists to dispense little-known and cheaper generic epinephrine auto-injectors under a brand-specific prescription without having to get a new prescription from the doctor.
"Mylan has spent billions of dollars making EpiPen a household name synonymous with epinephrine, but there are lesser-known products such as generic Adrenaclick, which can be purchased for approximately $140 for a two-pack," said Senate Health Committee Chairman Kemp Hannon, a Long Island Republican.
He noted that the essential difference is that the Adrenaclicks injector, by Horsham, Pennsylvania-based Amedra Pharmaceuticals, has two caps instead of one.
Democratic Missouri U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill said she expects Congress to hold hearings on the EpiPen price increases. Asked if legislators will invite Mylan CEO Heather Bresch, she said "of course."
McCaskill is the top Democrat on the Senate Special Committee on Aging. She and the committee's Republican chairwoman, Maine U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, have written Mylan asking for a briefing on the price increases.