If there’s an identifiable villain in America’s health care cost crisis, it’s Heather Bresch.
If you have a kid who might die from food allergies, or if it might happen to you, you have an EpiPen. If you have asthma and worry about a sudden attack, you have one. It’s a necessity, an insurance policy against sudden death.
The EpiPen contains epinephrine, more commonly known as adrenaline. Adrenaline is a hormone that can increase your blood pressure and heart rate. If you’re scared, or highly energized, your body releases adrenaline and performs better. It can stop the shock from food allergies. It can stop an asthma attack.
During most of the last decade, Bresch was the CEO of Mylan. As CEO, starting in 2011, she pushed huge price increases on EpiPens. She made small changes to the injector to win patent protection. She called epinephrine generic to avoid having to pay Medicaid rebates. Mylan bought the rights to make the EpiPen in 2007 and had a 95% market share in 2016, increasing the size of the market five-fold. By this time, Mylan was selling two-packs of the pens for $608.
In response to the scandal, Bresch stonewalled Congress. She claimed price increases were the result of research costs. They weren’t. She pretended not to know key details on pricing or the company’s policies on patient assistance. Eventually, market pressure forced Mylan into a merger with Pfizer’s generic drug business, which is now called UpJohn. When the UpJohn deal was done, Bresch “retired.” At age 52.
Any prosecutor who couldn’t make a criminal case out of this isn’t worth their law degree. So far, no one has. Wonder why?
Bresch is the daughter of Joe Manchin. That Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Senator who is almost single-handedly destroying democracy, by refusing to support voting rights legislation. It’s vital, thanks to the GOP’s Jim Crow Project of voter suppression and gerrymandering. Without a level playing field between the parties, democracy can’t survive. Without democracy, we’d might as well be China.
What needs to happen is this. Biden calls Manchin into the White House for a friendly chat. There’s a file on the table. Call it a referral. You’re giving Manchin a heads-up. You’re doing him a favor. “They’re ready to go on this case,” you say with sorrow. Then you suggest it can all go away. “But I’ll need a favor.” Manchin will not only change his view, on passing voting rights by a simple majority, but he’ll sell it to his colleagues. He’ll take responsibility for it. He’ll make sure it gets done. “You don’t want to see your little girl in handcuffs,” Vice President Harris might add.
Is this hardball? You betcha. Is there a risk? Manchin could storm out of the room, maybe even change parties. The Bresch story will be big, if leaked, but Majority Leader McConnell won’t mind.
Still, if he were in the same situation, I’ll bet you that Lyndon Johnson would do this. I guarantee Lincoln or Roosevelt would do this, if the stakes were high enough, if the cause were just. The stakes are high enough.