In its latest move to quell outrage over its price increases, the maker of the EpiPen has resorted to an unusual tactic — introducing a generic version of its own product.
The company, Mylan, said Monday that the generic EpiPen, expected in several weeks, would be identical to the existing product, which is used to treat severe allergic reactions. But it will have a wholesale list price of $300 for a pack of two, half the price of the brand-name EpiPen.
The introduction of the generic is in addition to measures the company announced last week for the branded EpiPen, which will remain in place. Those steps were to increase the financial assistance the company provided to commercially insured patients to help with their out-of-pocket costs and to broaden the eligibility for uninsured patients to receive free products.
Those measures, however, did not stem the public furor, in part because the company kept the list price the same. So now, the company will essentially sell the same product under two names at two price points, in competition with each other.
The new move could help mollify critics, though some are likely to note that even at $300, the generic would still be triple the price of the EpiPen in 2007, when Mylan acquired the product and began steadily raising its price from about $100 a pair.
Robert Weissman, president of the consumer group Public Citizen, said that the new move was not enough and that Mylan should just cut the price across the board.
"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," he said in a statement.
Adam J. Fein, president of Pembroke Consulting, who studies the drug distribution industry, said that if Mylan had simply lowered the price it would have risked angering all parties in the distribution network, including pharmacy benefit managers, wholesalers and pharmacies, which take a piece of the total amount spent on the drug.
Introducing a generic "is a way to do it without making enemies with a bunch of Fortune 25 companies who control your fate," he said.