South Carolina Congressman Mick Mulvaney attacked the rampant government corruption involved in the high pricing of EpiPen Auto-Injectors at a House panel on Wednesday, telling the woman at the heart of the controversy, “You’ve asked for it.”
“You’ve been in these hallways to ask us to make people buy your stuff,” Mulvaney declared, tearing into Heather Bresch, the CEO of pharmaceutical giant Mylan, the company behind the EpiPen. “I think there’s laws in eleven states now that require schools to have epinephrin in some immediately deliverable fashion. You’ve lobbied us to make the taxpayer buy your stuff.”
Mulvaney recalled the passing of a federal law in 2013, which gave financial incentives for schools to purchase EpiPens, thus artificially driving up the demand for the product. The bill passed “by voice vote, one of those magical things,” he recalled.
“My guess is, that didn’t happen by magic,” the congressman alleged. “It may have happened because your mother works for the school board’s association…, it may have happened because your dad is a U.S. senator.” The funny thing is, Mulvaney was understating his case: Bresch’s mother, Gayle Connelly Manchin, was the president of the West Virginia Board of Education, and is still a member of that board. Her father, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, was also governor of West Virginia.
But the head-scratching government favoritism shown to Mrs. Bresch and her company doesn’t stop there. Mulvaney pointed out that Mylan can charge $600 (or $300 generic) for its product in the U.S., while the same product is sold for between $100 and $150 in Europe (some report as low as $75) — “this same thing from the same manufacturer.”
One of the major reasons Mylan can do this in the U.S., the congressman argued, is that “there’s nine different people making the stuff in Europe, because it’s easier to get drugs approved in Europe.” By contrast, the drug-approval process is extremely difficult in America.
“An EpiPen competitior would [have to take even more trouble] to get stuff approved because it’s both a drug and a delivery device,” Mulvaney pointed out. All this despite the fact that the drug involved (adrenaline) is extremely easy to produce, and sells on the Internet for between ten cents and ninety-five cents a vial.
But the regulations make it essentially impossible for other companies to enter the market. Who benefits from this long drug-approval process? Why, it certainly couldn’t be established companies like Mylan, right?
And yet, there is a third reason — also related to big government — why Mylan has a corner on the market, the congressman argued. “The reason that this same product is more expensive every single year, when everything else in this room gets less expensive every year, is because it’s in the healthcare market, which doesn’t function properly.” Mulvaney estimated that it passes between the hands of “five and six people” between the producer and the consumer.
Next Page: But congressmen didn’t talk about this, they debated Bresch’s salary. How come?
The congressman lamented that, rather than discussing these key facets of the EpiPen price spike, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform discussed the inner economic workings of Mylan as a company.
We talked about your profit margins, with people who have no clue what that means. We talked about your distribution facilities, we talked about the costs of goods sold, we talked about board meetings, we talked about your salary. We talk about a bunch of stuff that tries to make a lot of us look really good. Somebody in my won party said there’s no way you could really earn $18 million a year.
As a free-market conservative, Mulvaney explained “that bothers me, ok? I’m not comfortable with that.”
“You get a level of scrutiny and a level of treatment that would ordinarily curl my hair, but you asked for it,” the congressman declared. “I wish it weren’t like that. I wish you could go off and make your stuff, and I wish the market functioned, and I wish you didn’t get government involved, but that’s not the world we live in.”
“Since it is, I have to defend every single question that was asked of you today,” Mulvaney told Bresch, with an air of great regret.
Nevertheless, he declared, “You get what you deserve.” The congressman clarified that he wasn’t chiding her personally or even professionally for the workings of her business, but rather for the very act of asking for special government favors.
You are getting the scrutiny you deserve, Mulvaney explained, “not because you’re a bad person, not because you’re charging too much or too little for a drug. Nobody in here has any clue, whether or not you’re charging too much or too little. … I’ll tell you what we do know, though, is that you’ve been in these hallways to ask us to make people buy your stuff.”
When it comes to the excessive government weighing on the free economy, people like Mrs. Bresch are the problem. Not because they’re bad people, or because they make too high a salary, but because they perpetuate the co-dependence of big business on big government. Special handouts, special deals, and crony capitalism are a disease at the heart of our system. Until government steps back and lets the market work in peace, America will run into similar price scandals, and once again, our leaders will seem incapable of even understanding them.
Check out the video on the next page!