Sunday, August 28, 2016

An open letter to the Epipen girl, Heather Bresch

Dear Heather Bresch,

You are the CEO of Mylan, owner of the rights to the Epipen, a life saving drug delivery system. The Epipen is used to save people from anaphylactic shock, a rapid response of the immune system to food like eggs and peanuts. I know because I have one. You are in the news because of the rapid rise of the cost of the Epipen.

I got an Epipen after watching my daughter puff up like a balloon one day after accidentally ingesting a small bit of raw egg. I know what it's like to go to the emergency room and watch a medical team work with amazing skill to help stabilize the vital signs of my daughter. Like many other parents, I know the sense of security I had just having that Epipen around. So yeah, the Epipen is an amazing product. I also know that they're expensive.

Wikipedia has a great summary and analysis of how the Epipen came to be so expensive:
Mylan acquired the right to market the EpiPen line of epinephrine autoinjector devices from Merck KGaA as part of their 2007 deal.[18] The devices deliver about $1 worth of drug.[19] At that time annual sales were around $200M.[19] Heather Bresch, Mylan's CEO, saw an opportunity to increase sales in the US through marketing and advocacy, and the company launched a marketing campaign to increase awareness of the dangers of anaphylaxis for people with severe allergies that made the "EpiPen" brand as identified with epinephrine autoinjectors as "Kleenex" is for facial tissue; the company also successfully lobbied the FDA to broaden the label to include risk of anaphylaxis and in parallel, successfully lobbied Congress to generate legislation making EpiPens available in public places like defibrillators are, and hired the same people that Medtronic had worked with on defibrillator legislation to do so.[19]
You are the CEO of Mylan, a multinational pharmaceutical firm, with worldwide revenues of $9.2 billion a year in 2015. You made the decision to jack up the price of Epipen along with your friends on the board of directors of your company. 

You also conducted a tax inversion at Mylan after purchasing Abbot Labs. So not only did you increase the price of your most visible product by more than 500%, you reincorporated in another country to avoid the taxation of the profits from that and many other products that you sell here. How patriotic.

How, exactly did you get that first job at Mylan? Oh, yeah. Your daddy Joe Manchin mentioned to the Mylan CEO at that time that you were looking for work in 1992. What was your daddy doing at that time? He was a state senator in the state of West Virginia. The same state where Mylan was founded. So good to know that when you have money, you get access to the statehouse, too. Since then, as your daddy went up the government ladder, you went up the corporate ladder.

You were paid nearly $19 million in total compensation last year for your glorious efforts in marketing the Epipen and jacking up the price at the same time. According to New York Magazine, your salary increased from $2,453,456 in 2007 to $18,931,068 in 2016 — an increase of 671 percent. You remain one of the only female CEOs of a Fortune 500 company. You've broken the glass ceiling, so good for you.

Economist Dean Baker has been patiently observing corporate governance for years and has found that outlandish CEO pay is a matter between friends. How does it feel to have a compensation review among friends rather than in an adversarial position like your subordinates? And don't forget that you and your friends on the board decided to make generous donations to the Clinton Foundation, you know, just in case Hillary breaks the glass ceiling while running for president.

So I have a few questions for you. Does life feel any better after the first million a year in compensation? Does life feel any better at $18 million a year than it did at $2 million a year? Or is it relatively the same and now the only thing that matters is the number? Have you considered the possibility that there is a diminishing utility to wealth?

It is people like you that sound the alarm for universal health care. With universal health care, no longer can you outsource the cost of your products to taxpayers. It's people like you that sound the alarm for campaign finance reform. With campaign finance reform, I can finally regain access to the people who purport to represent me in the statehouse and Congress. These are just a few of the reasons why I voted for Bernie Sanders and why I will vote for Jill Stein in November. 


Scott C. Dunn
A very concerned taxpayer and voter

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