ALBANY -- New York's attorney general said Tuesday he has started in an investigation whether EpiPens sales to New York school districts violated the state's competitive business practices.
The probe by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is the latest government intervention into Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc. after it created a national uproar last month when prices soared for the life-saving allergy medication.
Mylan said last week it would offer a generic version of the drug to stave off the price hike, but Schneiderman said schools in New York may have been bilked by the company for its medication that is ubiquitous in districts.
He claimed "a preliminary review" by his office found the Canonsburg, Pa.-based company "may have inserted potentially anticompetitive terms into its EpiPen sales contracts with numerous local school systems."
The EpiPen is the predominant epinephrine autoinjector— a critical device, particularly among children, that can blunt the impact of a severe allergic reaction.
“No child’s life should be put at risk because a parent, school, or healthcare provider cannot afford a simple, life-saving device because of a drug-maker’s anti-competitive practices,” Schneiderman said in a statement.
He didn't offer more details about what his initial review found amid reports across the nation that Mylan can require schools to buy their pens exclusively to get free or discounted ones.
"If Mylan engaged in anti-competitive business practices, or violated antitrust laws with the intent and effect of limiting lower cost competition, we will hold them accountable," Schneiderman's statement continued.
The company said it adheres to all laws and regulations, saying it provides free EpiPens to schools and ones at a discounted rate if they need more than what is provided for free.
“The EpiPen4Schools program provides free EpiPen Auto-Injectors to U.S. schools, and more than 700,000 free EpiPen Auto-Injectors have been distributed to more than 65,000 participating schools since its inception," the company said in a statement. It added, "The positive impact of the program has been demonstrated by the hundreds of uses of EpiPen Auto-Injectors provided through the EpiPen4Schools program during anaphylactic events in schools.”
The price of the EpiPens soared from about $100 in 2009 to about $600 for a two-pack this year, leading to an outcry that the company has unrivaled control of the market.
Already, the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has launched a bi-partisan investigation into the situation, with lawmakers writing to Mylan CEO Heather Bresch that that company has a "virtual monopoly over the epinephrine auto-injector market."
About a dozen states mandate schools to stock epinephrine, according to Food Allergy Research & Education, Inc., a McLean, Va.,-based group.
New York is not one of them, but it does have guidelines to allow for the drug administration, saying schools "may provide and maintain on-site" epinephrine auto-injectors.