The drugmaker Mylan has said it will release a cheaper generic version of the EpiPen syringe used by people with severe allergies. The decision has come after a wave of criticism over the product's high list price.
A less expensive, generic version of the EpiPen will be available in the upcoming weeks, announced Mylan on Monday, following backlash from consumers and politicians over the emergency allergy treatment's rising price tag.
A two-pack of the generic syringe is set to cost $300 (268 euros), said Mylan, less than half the list price of the branded EpiPen which costs $608 (543 euro).
Politicians and watchdog groups have accused the company of price-gouging, as the list price for the EpiPen has steadily risen from $94 in 2007, after Mylan acquired the product.
The life-saving syringe is used in emergency situations by those who suffer from extreme allergic reactions to foods like eggs and nuts, as well as insect bites. An EpiPen is preloaded with epinephrine which is used in cases of anaphylactic shock, which can cause death when untreated.
The syringes expire after one year.
Not far enough
Mylan's CEO, Heather Bresch said her company's decision is "an extraordinary commercial response."
"We determined that bypassing the brand system in this case and offering an additional alternative was the best option," Bresch said on Monday.
Although Mylan also said it will expand programs to help people pay for EpiPens, including copay cards and patient assistance programs, many politicians believe the measure does not go far enough.
Many are still asking why the syringe price is still so high compared to previous years. US senator Bernie Sanders tweeted that Mylan's new plan "isn't a discount. It's a PR move."
US Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has also come down hard on the rising price of EpiPens, calling for the company to lower their prices last week, and saying the price and expiration dates of the syringes "increase out-of pocket costs for families and first responders."
Others have also wondered whether or not the decision to release a cheaper, but still pricey, generic form of the EpiPen was a preemptive strike against competitors. At least two companies are awaiting approval for their generic versions to come out on the market next year.
"The weirdness of a generic drug company offering a generic version of its own branded but off-patent product is a signal that something is wrong," said Robert Weissman, the president of the consumer watchdog group Public citizen.
Several members of the US congress have called for a Federal Trade Commission investigation of Mylan and Food and Drug Administration measures to increase competition for the emergency allergy treatment.
rs/kms (AP, Reuters)