Image: AP

Pharmaceutical company Mylan has announced plans to launch its first generic EpiPen. But at a cost of $300—which is half of the branded product’s list price—it’s still a heap of money for this critically important medicine.

Mylan is taking a lot of heat these days for boosting the price of its EpiPen by more than 400 percent. Just eight years ago the auto-injection epinephrine pens, which are used to stave off the effects of potentially life-threatening allergic reactions, were priced at just $100 per pack. Today the branded product costs about $600. The company has subsequently been accused of price gouging, attracting the ire of consumers, lawmakers, doctors, and at least one disgruntled celebrity endorser.

In response to this growing wave of criticism, Mylan will launch a generic version of its EpiPen. The product should be available “in several weeks” and will retail for about $300 per shot. At the same time, the company said it still intends to market and distribute its exorbitantly priced branded EpiPen.

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The announcement comes just four days after Mylan said it would offer patients a coupon and expanded financial assistance—a move referred to by some politicians and insurers as a superficial “PR fix.” Mylan is clearly benefiting from its virtual monopoly position and the inability of competitors to produce a rival product. Mylan is also the beneficiary of patent protections and laws requiring allergy medications in schools.

Mylan’s decision to produce a generic product at half the cost is a smooth move, but it likely won’t stave off the mounting criticism. At $300, and for something so important to those who suffer from severe allergies, it’s still stupidly overpriced.

[Reuters]