Activists Deliver Petitions To EpiPen Maker’s Canonsburg Headquarters

Aug 30, 2016

Rachel Viehman, 34, of Squirrel Hill has two children with food allergies. She says companies like Mylan know parents can't put a price on their children's lives.
Credit Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

A small group of activists delivered five cardboard boxes containing what they said were the signatures of more than 700,000 “outraged citizens” to Mylan Pharmaceuticals Tuesday morning.

The Canonsburg-based company has come under scrutiny in recent weeks for increasing the price of its life-saving EpiPen from $100 to more than $600 in less than a decade. Further public outcry followed the revelation that CEO Heather Bresch – whose Sewickley Heights home is valued at $2.85 million – received annual compensation of nearly $19 million last year.

Rick Claypool of the nationwide consumer rights advocacy group Public Citizen called the price hike “immoral.”

“Not one life should be put at risk because of one company’s greed,” he said.

The EpiPen auto injector delivers a dose of epinephrine, which can reverse a life-threatening allergic response.

Rachel Viehman of Squirrel Hill recently used an EpiPen on her 5-year-old daughter Gabriella for the first time, after the girl came into contact with peanut butter that was on a booster seat in a restaurant.

Activists delivered five boxes of what they say were signatures of "outraged citizens" to Mylan Pharmaceuticals in Canonsburg.
Credit Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

“It was a horrible and terrifying experience, but at the same time I have no doubt that it saved her life,” she said.

The mother of two said her 10-month-old son, Robert, also has food allergies, and that doctors have directed her to keep an EpiPen nearby every time she feeds him something new.

“Companies like Mylan they have the power of life and death over my family and other families, because they know that, for me, I can’t put a price on my child’s life,” Viehman said.

Pressure from Congress and the public led Mylan to announce that it will introduce a generic version of the EpiPen at a reduced price of $300. Still, Claypool and other activists said that doesn’t go far enough, and that they want congressional action and single-payer healthcare.

“We demand that Congress pass laws imposing a windfall profits tax on big pharma to make it impossible for companies like Mylan to gouge consumers like this ever again,” Claypool said.

Former state Sen. Jim Ferlo (D-Allegheny, Westmoreland, Armstrong) called on Congress to require pharmaceutical companies to negotiate prices with Medicare and outlaw the “morally repugnant” practice of paying other firms to delay the production of generic versions of drugs.

In a recently released plan for lowering prescription drug costs, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton promised to do both if elected in November.

After the petitions were delivered to security guards, a Mylan spokesman said he appreciated the feedback from the public but gave no further comment.

Health care coverage on 90.5 WESA is made possible in part by a grant from the Jewish Healthcare Foundation.