EpiPen should be open to generic competition, which cuts prices dramatically for most other old medicines. Competitors have been trying for years to challenge Mylan’s EpiPen franchise with low-cost alternatives—only to become entangled in the Food and Drug Administration’s regulatory afflatus.
Approving a generic copy that is biologically equivalent to a branded drug is simple, but the FDA maintains no clear and consistent principles for generic drug-delivery devices like auto injectors or asthma inhalers. How does a company prove that a generic device is the same as the original product if there are notional differences, even if the differences don’t matter to the end result? In this case, that means immediately injecting a kid in anaphylactic shock with epinephrine—which is not complex medical engineering.
But no company has been able to do so to the FDA’s satisfaction. Last year Sanofi withdrew an EpiPen rival called Auvi-Q that was introduced in 2013, after merely 26 cases in which the device malfunctioned and delivered an inaccurate dose. Though the recall was voluntary and the FDA process is not transparent, such extraordinary actions are never done without agency involvement. This suggests a regulatory motive other than patient safety.
Then in February the FDA rejected Teva’s generic EpiPen application. In June the FDA required a San Diego-based company called Adamis to expand patient trials and reliability studies for still another auto-injector rival.
Mrs. Clinton claims the EpiPen price hikes show the need for price controls, and she says she’ll require drug makers to “prove that any additional costs are linked to additional patient benefits and better value.” Somebody in Congress should require the FDA to justify how its delays are advancing the same goals.
Requiring bureaucrats to justify their actions is anathema.