By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
U.S. Rep. Fred Upton is being called out by a Democratic opponent in response to recent price hikes in pharmaceuticals.
Democrat Paul Clements, who is running against Upton for the 6th District in the Nov. 8 general election, is claiming his opponent has done nothing to stop the increase in pharmaceutical prices.
Clements’ comments come amid the latest pricing scandal regarding the 400 percent increase in EpiPen prices by the company Mylan. The EpiPen, an automatic injection device that delivers a dose of epinephrine to a patient suffering a severe allergic reaction, now costs more than $500.
The increase puts the EpiPen out of reach for many of the low- and middle-income people who face allergic reactions to food products and animals.
Upton, R-St. Joseph, spearheaded a letter this week sent to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf posing questions about the agency’s regulatory process for generic drugs, particularly the EpiPen Auto-Injectors.
“EpiPens are a critical and often only option for saving kids from the brink of death during severe allergic reactions,” Upton said in a statement. “The soaring costs that patients are now facing for EpiPen Auto-Injectors is cause for alarm. We have been concerned about rising costs patients are facing for some prescription drugs. We are taking a hard look at the specifics behind this and have pressed Mylan for concrete answers.”
Upton chairs the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Clements claims Upton had a role in blocking a number of measures that could reduce the price of several pharmaceuticals. The Democratic candidate alleges Upton played a part in negotiating Medicare Part D drug costs and reimporting prescriptions from Canada.
Clements released a statement of his own in response to Upton’s remarks made earlier this week. In the news release, Clements said price gouging is not a new problem and alleges Upton has avoided taking action.
“While making EpiPens more available to schools is important to protecting children, we need to do more to protect everyone,” Clements said in his release. “Congressman Upton needs to face facts. Drug company greed is forcing seniors to choose between splitting pills and eating. It’s forcing working mothers to choose between EpiPens to save their own life or putting lunch money in their child’s backpacks.”
This statement was in reference to Upton defending the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, which supports schools and ensures they have the capability to treat allergic reactions.
Clements continued by saying: “Congress needs to act to make prescription drugs available at a reasonable cost and end the price gouging we have seen repeatedly in recent months. I don’t trust Congressman Upton, who has taken over $1.2 million in campaign funds from pharmaceutical companies, to do that.”
In response to Clements’ comments, Upton said he has written to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to learn what has delayed approval of generic epinephrine auto-injectors, which could be affordable alternatives to EpiPens.
“I am one who is also focused on advancing common sense legislation to address the growing problem of rising prescription drug prices. The issue is becoming a major concern for many families I have heard from,” Upton said in a news release.
Last year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the 21st Century Cures Act – legislation Upton introduced alongside U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colorado. The legislation has nearly two dozen provisions aimed at bringing affordable therapies and cures to patients in need.
Upton said the legislation works to lower barriers to medical innovation and safely speed up the FDA’s approval of drugs and devices.
“More innovation and efficient regulation will lead to more cures and greater competition, leading to more choices and lower prices for patients,” Upton said in the release. “Together, we have been working closely with the White House and have pursued Cures as a vehicle to help achieve the vice president’s moon shot initiative.”