WASHINGTON, Sept. 2 (UPI) -- Hillary Clinton released a plan Friday she said will prohibit pharmaceutical companies from arbitrarily hiking the price for potentially life-saving medications.
Her announcement comes amid a firestorm of criticism for a huge price increase by Mylan, the makers of the allergy device EpiPen, which severe allergy sufferers carry at all times to deliver an emergency dose of epinephrine in the event of an attack. While previously a two-pack of EpiPens cost about $50 retail, the company sharply increased the price to between $500 and $600.
After widespread criticism from patients and lawmakers, the company began offering $300 savings cards and has since said it will make a generic version of the EpiPen available for $150 per injector.
Clinton said Friday she will create a government task force made up of representatives from various Cabinet departments to examine "outlier price increases" for prescription drugs.
"Over the past year, we've seen far too many examples of drug companies raising prices excessively for long-standing, life-saving treatments with little or no new innovation or [research and development]," Clinton said. "It's time to move beyond talking about these price hikes and start acting to address them. All Americans deserve full access to the medications they need -- without being burdened by excessive, unjustified costs. Our pharmaceutical and biotech industries are an incredible source of American innovation and revolutionary treatments for debilitating diseases.
"But I'm ready to hold drug companies accountable when they try to put profits ahead of patients, instead of back into research and innovation."
Clinton also singled out Turing Pharmaceutical, the owners of pyrimethamine, which is used to treat toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection of particular concern for people with weakened immune systems like AIDS or cancer patients. Turing acquired the drug and increased the price by 5,000 percent, leading to public outrage.
Clinton's plan would empower the task force to investigate dramatic price hikes for potentially life-saving medications. Her plan would allow regulators to intervene and promote greater competition among drug companies by offering federal subsidies to competitors to create cheaper generic drugs. The subsidies would be paid for in part by fines issued to companies found to have implemented an "unjustified, outlier price increase."
Clinton also called on the federal government to import drugs from other countries with high safety standards if they come at a lower cost in order to help patients continue to have access to their medications.
Calling it a "troubling trend," Clinton singled out companies like Mylan and Turing that do not pay to develop a medication, but later purchase the rights to it and jack up the price.
EpiPens have been available since the 1970s, but Mylan purchased the rights from Merck in 2007.