EpiPen price-gouger bought company that pushed bad drugs alongside Clinton Foundation
A congressional report released Tuesday detailed how the Clinton Foundation and drug companies provided cheap but possibly watered-down anti-HIV drugs in Africa, drugs that may have hurt people suffering from HIV or AIDS.
In the meantime, Bill Clinton got millions of dollars in consulting fees for his efforts, and two of the Indian drug companies recruited to help Clinton’s campaign against HIV and AIDS got sold for hundreds of millions of dollars.
One of those companies was bought by Mylan, which is embroiled in a U.S. controversy about its steady jacking of prices on its EpiPen, a life-saving device used for allergy and breathing emergencies.
The report about the Clinton Foundation and Mylan comes at an inopportune time for the Clintons, as Mylan CEO Heather Bresch is set to testify before Congress about alleged price-gouging in the United States.
Bresch’s company is a donor to the Clinton Foundation and she is the daughter of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).
Mylan and Bresch came under political fire earlier this year when Mylan steadily raised the price of the EpiPen by 508 percent, from $100 in 2009 to $608 today. The medicine stops anaphylaxis, and makes breathing easier during an attack.
The congressional report, initiated by U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), and prepared over the course of two months, claims that the Clinton Foundation could be a “sham charity” engaged in “unfair or deceptive acts or practices.”
Most damning, the report found that the Clinton drug alliance ultimately distributed “watered-down,” less effective anti-HIV drugs that “subjected patients to increased risks of morbidity and mortality.” The report cites both the World Health Organization, in 2004, and U.S. government attorneys for USAID.
One of the companies involved admitted to several felonies, and paid a $500 million fine to the U.S. government.
The report studied how the Clinton Foundation partnered with drug companies such as Ranbaxy Labs, Matrix, and Cipla in India. The goal was to combat HIV and AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, where infection rates are among the highest in the world.
The method was to find ways to make the Indian-manufactured medicines cheaper for the HIV-positive and the AIDS patients.
The report charged the foundation and its business allies with disregard of intellectual property standards, such as drug patents; the likely use of taxpayer money to pay for bad drugs; and possible kickbacks in the form of million-dollar consulting contracts to President Bill Clinton from the friend of convicted felon and Ranbaxy Labs advocate Rajat Gupta.
The association with these companies was fruitful for both Mylan and Clinton. The report says Mylan bought Matrix for $736 million, three years after the Clinton Foundation alliance. Ranbaxy also got sold, for $4.6 billion.
Around this time, from 2002 to 2008, Bill Clinton received $3.3 million in consulting fees from a Gupta friend, according to the report. The report says this raises questions as to whether Clinton was rewarded with kickbacks for his foundation’s alliance with Ranbaxy.
Blackburn’s report noted that Clinton’s interest in bringing cheaper anti-HIV and AIDS drugs to Africa began in 2002. But intellectual property and trademarks stood in his way. Generic drug makers initially balked at Clinton’s efforts, as they did not wish to get sued.
Clinton is alleged to have assured generic drug makers to ignore legal patents, according to the report, which even used claims made in Elton John’s book on anti-AIDS efforts. The Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) soon worked around the hurdles.
But Blackburn’s office says the patents help protect patients from companies with poor resources, who may be tempted to sell watered-down or inferior drugs.
By 2010, CHAI broke off from the foundation and became its own entity. Blackburn’s office notes that CHAI’s former CEO is now a vice president at Mylan.
Today, Mylan is on the hot seat for other issues. The price-gouging regarding EpiPen became a red-hot issue earlier this year as people asked if Bresch was exercising political influence to get more of the expensive two-packs of EpiPen into schools.
You see, Bresch is not only Mylan CEO and the daughter of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin.
She is also the daughter of Gayle Manchin, “who helped boost sales of EpiPen in her position as president of the National Association of State Boards of Education,” according to USA Today.
The EpiPen is widely used as an emergency medicine at schools in case of severe allergic reactions to food or other items. The cost isn’t just borne by private citizens and parents. CNBC reports that by 2014, Medicare spent $87.9 million for EpiPens, at an average price of $344.