N.J. lawmakers want federal investigation into soaring price for life-saving EpiPen

(Mark Zaleski/ AP Photo

(Mark Zaleski/ AP Photo

A New Jersey lawmaker wants the U.S. Department of Justice to determine whether a massive increase in the cost for a potentially life-saving device amounts to price gouging.

The EpiPen cost $57 nine years ago, said Sen. Dick Codey, adding that it’s outrageous that drugmaker Mylan now charges $600 for a package of two of the devices.

“There is no other company making this drug,” said Codey, D-Essex. “So when there’s no competition, you’re able to increase that price of the drug exponentially, and you’re harming consumers incredibly.”

The cost is especially troubling for parents gearing up to send their kids back to school with a device that can prevent severe allergic reactions, said Senate Health Committee Chairman Joe Vitale.

“Nine out of 10 schools in America have a child with a food allergy or some reaction from an insect bite and they go into anaphylactic shock,” said Vitale, D-Middlesex. “So this kind of money is just outrageous and unconscionable.”

Vitale he’ll devote part of a planned hearing next month to discussions about the price hike.

“The company hasn’t responded to any questions about why it is that their prices have gone up so high,” he said Tuesday. “The only thing they’ve said is, ‘We offer coupons, and we give some free to schools, and we have an awareness campaign.’

“Well that doesn’t cut it as far as I’m concerned.”

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