Readers sound off on Times Square plaza, Heather Bresch and Joe Girardi

Times Square no place for plaza Woodside: With the two bombs placed in midtown Manhattan, New Yorkers were very lucky that there were no fatalities. Immediately after the bomb blast, the NYPD put the Times Square pedestrian plaza on lockdown, prohibiting any pedestrian movement and completely searching it. This time the city was lucky. No bombs were found and none exploded in Times Square. If terrorists wanted to kill many people with one bomb, they would choose Times Square. The Bloomberg administration made a very big error in creating the Times Square pedestrian plaza, which is a mass catastrophe waiting to happen. Former Commissioner Bill Bratton wanted to remove the plaza and to restore the area back to what it was before. Now it remains a magnet for international terrorists. The city should take immediate steps to get rid of the plaza and restore it as a traffic artery vital to Midtown, which is what it was before the half-brained idea created a public danger. Michael Hajovsky Grade for chancellor Bayside: Carmen Fariña was never elected to any office, and the man who appointed her was elected by the lowest voter turnout in New York City history. If she wants second graders to read at grade level, she should go back to basics and let reading aloud by students back into the classroom. And restore Brooklyn-Queens Day, instead of appropriating it to glorify herself. Peggy Graham Chill on Hil Queens Village: We crucify Hillary Clinton for taking back her husband after his infidelity. We are so wrong to condemn her for this, as this is solely her call, not America’s. How many have not taken back their spouse after infidelity? We crucify her for voting for the Iraq War after our Republican President claimed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Instead, we should commend her for siding with President George W. Bush even though she is a Democrat. She did not vote along party lines in such a serious issue and probably believed the Continue Reading

EpiPen maker offers coupons after price-gouging backlash

The drug company under fire for price-gouging its life-saving EpiPen promised to offer discounts amid the furious uproar over the 500% price hike. Mylan said it would offer $300 coupons to “patients who are facing the burden of higher out-of-pocket costs.” That effectively cuts the price of the $500 to $600 device in half, the company said in a Thursday statement. The drug maker did not elaborate on what constitutes “higher out-of-pocket costs.” Mylan is also doubling the income requirement to receive help paying for their EpiPens, portable devices that counteracts potentially fatal allergic reactions. A family of four making up to $97,200 would pay nothing out of pocket, Mylan promised. “We recognize the significant burden on patients from continued, rising insurance premiums and being forced increasingly to pay the full list price for medicines at the pharmacy counter,” said Mylan CEO Heather Bresch, who enjoyed a 671% salary increase during the same period of time the EpiPen’s price shot up 400%. Mylan acquired the EpiPen in 2008, when it cost about $100. Through a series of small increases — between 5% and 20% — the price of the lifesaving medication rose to a shocking $500 and up this month. Some retailers charge closer to $600. There is no generic drug like the EpiPen and no other drug makers offer a brand-name equivalent. Outrage over the skyrocketing price mounted this week. Doctors and patient advocates have slammed the company for essentially restricting access to a medically necessary device, while lawmakers have demanded an explanation for the fivefold price hike. On Wednesday, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton called on Mylan to swiftly and voluntarily lower the EpiPen price. “That’s outrageous — and it’s just the latest troubling example of Continue Reading

EpiPen makers to pay massive $465 million fine for ripping off Medicaid over the lifesaving device

Drugmaker Mylan will pay $465 million to settle allegations that it overbilled Medicaid for its life-saving EpiPen, ending one of the controversies over the soaring price of the emergency allergy injection. The settlement with the Department of Justice follows news that EpiPen has been incorrectly classified since late 1997 as a generic product under the Medicaid health program for the poor and disabled. However, the federal government says EpiPen is a branded drug, meaning Mylan should have been paying Medicaid a far higher rebate under the government's complex pricing rules. Drugmakers are required to pay Medicaid rebates of just 13% for generic products it purchases, versus a 23.1% rebate for brand-name drugs, which cost far more. Members of Congress have recently grilled the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid about the discrepancy and whether it was taking any action, attention that apparently resulted in the settlement announced late Friday. "I am glad the Department of Justice pursued this so quickly, since the misclassification was an outrage," Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said in a statement. Klobuchar and several colleagues had requested an investigation by the Justice Department and other federal agencies. Mylan has become the latest poster child for pharmaceutical industry price-gouging, for hiking the price of a pair of EpiPens from $94 in 2007, when it acquired the product, to $608 this year, despite making no substantive improvement to EpiPens over that stretch. Meanwhile, analysts and others have estimated that it costs less than $10 to produce one EpiPen. Government health programs, particularly Medicaid, are major purchasers of EpiPens. The amount Medicare and Medicaid spent on EpiPens rose to $486.8 million in 2015 from $86.5 million in 2011, a jump of 463%. While EpiPens have some competition, they're so well known that they hold more than 90% of the market for epinephrine Continue Reading

EpiPen maker to offer discounts after price hike firestorm

Drugmaker Mylan (MYL) said Thursday that it would offer discounts on a life-saving allergy shot after generating a firestorm when it implemented sharp price increases for the treatment.The company said it would offer coupons covering up to $300 "for patients in health plans who face higher out-of-pocket costs" for the EpiPen Auto-Injector treatment.Mylan also said it would double the income level at which families are eligible for assistance in purchasing the medication to 400% of the federal poverty level, which stands at $24,300 for a family of four. The company said a family of four with income up to $97,200 won't pay out of pocket."As a mother, I can assure you, the last thing that we would ever want is no one to have their EpiPen due to price," Mylan CEO Heather Bresch said on CNBC in an interview. "Our response has been to take that immediate action of making sure everyone has an EpiPen."Almost immediately, critics assailed Mylan's discount announcement, saying the list price isn't changing and that ultimately consumers will bear most of the costs.The average wholesale price of EpiPen has increased by nearly 500% since 2009, while the price that insurers and employers pay to Mylan is up 150% since 2013, according to Rx Savings Solutions, which represents businesses and insurance companies.  There's no generic equivalent and no brand-name competitor.Politicians and patient advocates have criticized Mylan for the price increases, describing the company's actions as emblematic of the drug industry's unfair stranglehold on the market for life-saving treatments."Nobody is buying this PR move anymore," Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Maryland, ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said in a statement. "Mylan should not offer after-the-fact discounts only for a select few—it should reverse its massive price increases across the board immediately. Drug company CEOs are using a corrupt business model to profit Continue Reading

Under fire, Mylan to offer generic EpiPen for 50% less

Drugmaker Mylan said Monday that it will offer a generic version of the life-saving allergy treatment EpiPen for half the list price of the brand-name treatment after it became the center of a national controversy over skyrocketing drug prices.The move marks a sharp shift in Mylan's position after it vigorously defended multiple increases over the years that resulted in a list price of about $600 for a two-pack of the emergency injection treatment, up from about $100 in 2009.​The generic version of EpiPen "will be identical to the branded product, including device functionality and drug formulation," Mylan said in a statement."It's highly unusual for a generic product to come out in this way," Marianne Udow-Phillips, director of the Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation at the University of Michigan, said Monday . "It clearly shows how much pressure Mylan was under. It's still a huge profit margin for them."The company's decision was revealed hours before Republican and Democratic leaders of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform launched an investigation into EpiPen price increases in a rare show of bipartisanship that underscores the depth of the opposition to Mylan's strategy.Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and ranking member Elijah Cummings, D-Md., requested a slew of documents from Mylan, including details of EpiPen profits and sales, lobbying data, internal cost figures and federal health reimbursement numbers.Mylan has "a virtual monopoly over the epinephrine auto-injector market," the lawmakers said in a letter to Bresch. "While families and schools are struggling to keep up with your company's unreasonable price increases, Mylan has profited richly from its pricing strategy."The committee's letter, which requested a briefing by Sept. 6 and documents by Sept. 12, paves the way for a potential congressional hearing on the matter.The company will surely cite its decision to Continue Reading

Mylan to pay $465M settlement over EpiPen, cuts earnings outlook

Mylan, the embattled maker of allergy treatment EpiPen, lowered its 2016 earnings guidance Friday after it agreed to pay $465 million in a settlement with federal regulators over its pricing practices.“The terms of the settlement do not provide for any finding of wrongdoing on the part of Mylan Inc. or any of its affiliated entities or personnel,” the Canonsburg, Pa.-based company said.Mylan has been under investigation by federal and state regulators for repeatedly raising prices of EpiPen over the years, which resulted in a list price of about $600 for a two-pack of the emergency injection treatment, up from about $100 in 2009.The settlement specifically refers to the question of how EpiPen was classified with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency that runs the Medicaid insurance program for the poor. CMS said it advised Mylan on multiple occasions that the drugmaker had incorrectly classified EpiPen as a generic treatment for the Medicaid Drug Rebate program, resulting in the company paying lower rebates to state health programs.To lower the cost of drugs, the program requires manufacturers to have a national rebate agreement in exchange for state Medicaid coverage. Companies generally pay lower rebates for generic drugs than branded drugs, which are also called "innovator" drugs.The settlement terms resolve "all potential rebate liability claims" by federal and state governments as to whether the product should have been classified as a branded drug for CMS, Mylan said.Mylan will include a pretax charge of about $465 million in the quarter that ended on Sept. 30 due to the settlement. And it now expects full-year 2016 adjusted earnings per share (EPS) to be between $4.70 and $4.90. That's lower than the previously announced guidance of $4.85 to $5.15."Much of the impact of this guidance change will occur in the third quarter," it said. Continue Reading

Mylan’s generic EpiPen hits market after fury over dramatic price hikes

The generic version of allergic-reaction treatment EpiPen will hit U.S. pharmacies beginning next week after a firestorm over manufacturer Mylan's sharp price increases for the name-brand version.The life-saving treatment's skyrocketing price tag enraged consumers, Congress and drug industry watchdogs after multiple increases over the last several years resulted in a list price of more than $600 for a two-pack, up from about $100 in 2009.In August, Mylan announced plans to introduce a generic version for a wholesale cost of $300. Most patients pay significantly less for the treatment because it's partially covered by insurance or they qualify for discounts, but some pay the full cost out of pocket.The company will continue to sell the name-brand EpiPen. But the generic "has the same drug formulation and device functionality" and "is administered in the same way."The generic version's box is labeled, "Epinephrine Injection, USP Auto-Injectors," with two dosage options: 0.3 milligrams and 0.15 milligrams.The device delivers an emergency treatment of epinephrine to counteract anaphylaxis, which can be deadly.Critics have cited Mylan as an example of exorbitant price increases that are becoming rampant in the pharmaceutical industry."Americans are rightfully concerned about rising drug prices, and now more than ever patients and families across this country are standing at the pharmacy counter struggling to pay for their medications," Mylan CEO Heather Bresch said in a statement."While it is important to understand the outdated and complex system that determines what someone pays for medicine in the U.S., hardworking families don't need an explanation, they need a solution. This is why we took decisive action with our EpiPen product and have launched the first generic version at half the (wholesale) price."Mylan has also come under fire for classifying EpiPen incorrectly as a generic treatment for the Medicaid Drug Rebate program, resulting in the company doling Continue Reading

7 female CEOs you need to know

Commentary about high-powered female professionals is often dichotomous. Praise for their empowering mantras couples with eye rolls at their advantages and wealth. Applause for their efforts to break the mold meets with cries of privilege being the reason they're able to do so. This isn't a column to continue that dialogue; this is a chance to highlight their achievement while also drawing some lessons from their career that can be applied universally to anyone's professional path. Marissa Mayer Company: Yahoo Age: 37 Upon becoming Google's 20th hire in 1999, Marissa Mayer also became the company's first female engineer. During her stint with the corporation she has had influence over the look and function of some of its best-known products, such as Google Maps, Google Earth and the Google Doodle. But Mayer probably made the most headlines of her career during last summer when she joined Yahoo and became that company's youngest CEO at age 37. Even more fodder: Mayer was pregnant at the time and announced her intention to return to work shortly after giving birth. Career Lesson: Go against the grain. You probably already knew of the brouhaha regarding Mayer's abbreviated maternity leave or her edict to winnow telework privileges for Yahoo staff. What you might not know is in the nine months since Mayer was tapped as CEO, president and director, Yahoo has introduced a new email application for the iPad and Android tablets, as well as a new weather app for the iPhone. [See: The 25 Best Jobs of 2013.] Meg Whitman Company: Hewlett-Packard Age: 56 The illustrious résumé of Meg Whitman, president and CEO of computer company Hewlett-Packard, includes time served as an executive with The Walt Disney Company, DreamWorks, Procter & Gamble and Hasbro. Prior to coming on board at Hewlett-Packard in 2011, Whitman was the CEO at eBay. She also ran in the California gubernatorial race of 2010, losing to Edmund "Jerry" Brown, Jr. Continue Reading

Pharmaceutical industry braces for Trump showdown

In a hallway of a San Francisco luxury hotel, investors huddled around a computer screen watching dozens of drug stocks plummet as President-elect Donald Trump lit into pharmaceutical companies, declaring that “they’re getting away with murder.” As for Obamacare, he said, “it’ll be repeal and replace.”The mood was shock and disbelief as thousands of health-care investors, bankers and executives gathered at the cramped Westin St. Francis Hotel. Many had paid thousands of dollars to attend the industry’s biggest investing get-together of the year, the four-day J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference. And they had spent the last days speculating about what policies Trump would push in health care. Then the bomb dropped.“It’s horrible,” David MacCallum of Outer Islands Capital, a small hedge fund in New York, said over the phone to his wife as he watched the tickers tilt downward.On Wednesday, Trump promised to force drug and biotechnology companies to bid for the government’s business, and reiterated his demand to do away with Obamacare. “We’re the largest buyer of drugs in the world and yet we don’t bid properly.” He promised the government would “save billions of dollars.”Trump’s attack on the industry is just the latest turn in a populist governing philosophy where he’s gone after companies that provide high-value goods and services to the government, like defense manufacturers, or major employers, like car manufacturers. Drug stocks jumped after Trump’s election, as investors bet he would be friendlier to the industry than his opponent, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.“Well, that party ended fast,” John Schroer, sector head of health care at Allianz Global Investors, said as the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index fell 3 percent and the Standard & Poor’s 500 Pharmaceuticals, Biotechnology & Life Sciences Index fell 1.7 Continue Reading

Dan Bova: EpiPen price takes breath away

If your Facebook feed looks anything like mine, you’ve probably seen one or two or a bazillion stories about the recent 600 percent price increase of EpiPens. (If your feed really, really looks like mine, you also have a bunch of hairy-armed selfies, but that’s not what this story is about.)This matters to me because, like a lot of other parents, I have a kid who has peanut and tree nut allergies.For those who don’t know, an EpiPen is a device that quite brilliantly administers the precise amount of epinephrine to prevent a human from dying from a severe allergic reaction.We have three sets of these: one for the house, one for his school and one that travels around in a bag with us wherever he goes. That bag is the fifth member of our family at this point. I may forget to put on pants before I leave the house some days, but we never forget that bag.Now if you’ve seen the car in my driveway with the broken taillight, you may have correctly guessed that I am not a billionaire. Most months, I’m not even a break-even-ionaire.So, like a lot of folks out there, when I found out about EpiPen's new sticker price, I thought, well, jeepers, that doesn’t seem right. (Only there were a lot more f-words.)When pharmaceutical company Mylan acquired EpiPen in 2007, a set of the devices sold for about $100. Nine years later, I assume while rubbing her hands together, Mylan CEO Heather Bresch thought, So if people are literally dying to get these things, why not make them pay six times that?And here’s the great part for her cash coffers: Since people with severe allergies need several sets of EpiPens — and they expire every year and a half or so — and the actual medicine inside only costs about a dollar, this is a choo choo on the Ca-ching Express!At first, I was angry at Heather, who seems to be making an attempt to unseat Martin “I Increased the price of AIDS medicine by Continue Reading