Morrisey right in Mylan objection

In late August, the news broke that Mylan Pharmaceuticals was reaping big profits from sales of its EpiPen devices. Just weeks later, in early October, it was announced the U.S. Department of Justice had reached a deal with the company, to settle allegations it had overcharged the Medicaid program for EpiPens.

Federal officials may have acted too quickly, to judge by an objection raised by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

Mylan acquired the rights to the EpiPen in 2007, when the price for a two-pack of the devices was $94. The same product now costs $608.

The dearth of competition for that type of device — EpiPens are used by those with life-threatening allergies — has been very good for Mylan. Annual profits on EpiPens alone reportedly have been in the $1 billion range.

Blame the Food and Drug Administration for dragging its feet on approval of applications by other companies for products to compete with the EpiPen.

Still, the company’s profiteering is so unsavory that Congress launched an investigation. One concern is overbilling the Medicaid program.

In early October, Justice Department officials revealed they had reached an agreement with the company. It calls for Mylan to pay $465 million to settle claims about overbilling Medicaid.

But Morrisey — who has begun his own investigation of how Mylan’s practices affected the state Department of Health and Human Resources — has filed a formal objection to the proposed settlement.

“The $465 million figure represents a sweetheart deal for Mylan,” Morrisey said this week. A more reasonable figure could be as much as $700 million, he alleges.

As he has many times during his tenure as attorney general, Morrisey acted quickly on behalf of both West Virginia consumers and state government. His probe remains a work in progress — but it, too, involves the Medicaid program.

Implementation of the Justice Department deal could tie Morrisey’s hands in pursuing a state-level agreement with Mylan.

Morrisey is right to be upset about that. Mountain State residents should be concerned, too.

Our attorney general is right to wonder whether the Justice Department conducted a thorough investigation in the few weeks between when news of EpiPen pricing broke and the announcement of a proposed federal deal with Mylan.

If Morrisey is right, hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake. That may not seem significant in Washington — but it is here in West Virginia.

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