Employers who continue to make such overtures would be prosecuted for attempted bribery or extortion:
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Mylan Pharmaceuticals CEO Heather Bresch is on a roll.
- Since 2004, she has hiked the price of a life-saving EpiPen from $50 to $300–or $600 for a package of two.
- She has seen her own salary steadily rise more than 600% to a current total of $18 million a year.
- The device now accounts for 40% of Mylan’s profits.
But in playing greed-based games with the lives of millions of Americans, Bresch, 47, may have put her company–and even herself–in jeopardy.
EpiPens have been mandatory for public schools in at least 11 states since Congress passed the 2013 School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act. This occurred after Mylan spent $4 million lobbying Congress.
When the lives of their children are threatened, adults who can stoically accept the inevitability of their own deaths can become dangerously emotional about the fates of their sons or daughters.
As national news media spread the word of Mylan’s unconscionable price increases, American consumers are making their rage increasingly known.
There are three ways this could be expressed: Political, Legal, and Illegal.
Political: Minnesota U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar has called for an official investigation by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) into the price hike:
Senator Amy Klobuchar
“I write to request the Federal Trade Commission investigate whether Mylan Pharmaceuticals has violated the antitrust laws regarding the sale of its epinephrine auto-injector, EpiPen. Many Americans, including my own daughter, rely on this life-saving product to treat severe allergic reactions.
“Although the antitrust laws do not prohibit price gouging, regardless of how unseemly it may be, they do prohibit the use of unreasonable restraints of trade to facilitate or protect a price increase.”
Other Senators who have called for hearings include Iowa’s Charles Grassley, Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal and former Democratic presidential contender Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
“I have heard from one father in Iowa who recently purchased a refill of his daughter’s EpiPen prescription. He reported that to fill the prescription, he had to pay over $500 for one EpiPen,” wrote Grassley to Bresch. “The high cost has also caused some first responders to consider making their own kits with epinephrine vials and syringes.”
Senator Charles Grassley
“There’s no reason an EpiPen, which costs Mylan just a few dollars to make, should cost families more than $600,” tweeted Sanders on Twitter.
A second expression of political fallout could ultimately be the adoption of a single-payer healthcare system. Under this, a “single-payer” fund, rather than private insurers, pays for healthcare costs. The healthcare delivery system can be private, public or a combination of the two.
Owing to the belief of millions of Right-wing Americans that such a system is “Communistic,” this is unlikely to be adopted within the foreseeable future.
Legal: Individual Americans–and/or the U.S. Department of Justice–could file civil lawsuits against Mylan Pharmaceuticals under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.
Passed by Congress in 1970 to combat the Mafia, its provisions include punishments for extortion. This is defined as “a criminal offense which occurs when a person unlawfully obtains either money, property or services from a person(s), entity, or institution, through coercion.”
It could be argued that, by holding a near-monopoly over a product that millions of Americans depend on for survival, and raising its price beyond the ability of most Americans to afford it, Mylan has engaged in extortionate practices.
It would not be the first time a David-vs.-Goliath lawsuit prevailed against dismal expectations.
In 1994, amid great pessimism, Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore filed a lawsuit against the tobacco industry. But other states soon followed, ultimately growing to 46.
Their goal: To seek monetary, equitable and injunctive relief under various consumer-protection and anti-trust laws.
The theory underlying these lawsuits: Cigarettes produced by the tobacco industry created health problems among the population, which badly strained the states’ public healthcare systems.
In 1998, the states settled their Medicaid lawsuits against the tobacco industry for recovery of their tobacco-related, health-care costs–amounting to millions of dollars. In return, they exempted the companies from private lawsuits for tobacco-related injuries.
Illegal: At one time, business titans like John D. Rockefeller and Henry Ford lived apart from “the common herd.” Americans read about them in newspapers or heard about them on the radio, but had no way of contacting them directly.
If you wanted to “dig up dirt” on any of them, you had to be wealthy enough to hire private detectives–who were probably employed by the same people you wanted to investigate.
But the rise of the Internet–and especially the advent of “people-finder” websites like Instant Checkmate, Intellius and Veromi–has drastically changed all that.
Type “Heather Bresch” into the Intellius “Confidential People Finder” subject line, and–for a $20 month’s subscription–you can obtain “some or all of the following”:
- Full Name
- Age and Date of Birth
- Address History
- Phone Numbers
- Email Address(es)
- Social Networks
- Property Records
- Marriages & Divorce
- Criminal Records
It doesn’t take a genius to see how the parent of an allergy-suffering child–desperate to save his son or daughter and enraged at what he believes to be the extortionately high price of EpiPens–might put such information to use.
What is truly astonishing is that, in our publicity-saturated culture, greedy, self-destructive “celebrities” like Heather Bresch don’t realize this.
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More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern politics, delivered this sage advice in his political masterwork, The Discourses:
All those who have written upon civil institutions demonstrate…that whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it.
If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason; and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself. But time, which has been said to be the father of all truth, does not fail to bring it to light.
Unfortunately, it’s advice that members of the United States Congress have blissfully chosen to ignore. And, in doing so, they have condemned millions of Americans to suffering and death at the hands of greed-based, predatory corporations.
One of these corporations is Mylan Pharmaceuticals.
In 2007, Mylan acquired the patent for the EpiPen, a lifesaving device for anyone allergic to common foods like peanuts, shellfish and eggs. Millions of people with life-threatening allergies depend on the EpiPen for survival.
During an allergy attack, the EpiPen injects an emergency dosage of epinephrine to the user, preventing a possibly fatal reaction, known as anaphylaxis, from occurring.
Between 2007 and 2015, the wholesale price of an EpiPen skyrocketed from $56.64 to $317.82–an increase of 461%.
According to NBC News, compensation for Mylan CEO Heather Bresch similarly skyrocketed during the same period: From $2,453,456 in 2007 to $18,931,068 in 2015–a 671% raise in eight years.
Bresch wasn’t the only one to profit at the expense of the most vulnerable.
Mylan’s president, Rajiv Malik, got an 11% pay increase to $1 million annually by 2015. And Mylan Chief Commercial Officer Anthony Mauro got a 13.6% raise, amounting to $625,000 per year.
Between 2007 and 2015, Mylan’s stock price tripled, going from $13.29 per share in 2007 to a high of $47.59 in 2016. By late August, 2016, Mylan’s stock is hovering around $45.68 per share on the NASDAQ index.
Bloomberg states that the EpiPen now accounts for about 40% of Mylan’s profits.
Ironically, Sheldon Kaplan, the man who invented the now-famous device, never made a dime off it, and died in obscurity.
After working at NASA, Kaplan worked for Survival Technology, Inc., in Bethesda, Maryland. His assignment: Create a device to quickly inject a victim of anaphylaxis–a potentially fatal allergic reaction–with an emergency dose of epinephrine.
In 1973, when Kaplan was finalizing the design concept for what would ultimately become the EpiPen, the Defense Department asked him to take on a new assignment. The military needed a device that could quickly inject an antidote for nerve gas.
Kaplan’s design perfectly fitted this need: When a victim plunged a needle into his thigh, a spring-loaded mechanism shot a needle containing life-saving medicine into his bloodstream.
Kaplan’s invention became known as the ComboPen, and was initially used by the Pentagon before becoming available for use by the general public several years later as the EpiPen.
Kaplan left Survival Technology shortly after creating the ComboPen to become a biochemical engineer. He didn’t follow the success of his invention–and didn’t reap any of the huge financial rewards that it has produced.
That has certainly not been true for Mylan Pharmaceuticals.
After cornering the patent on the EpiPen in 2007, the company has made billions on the life-saving device.
According to Bloomberg, a package of two EpiPens costs $415 in the United States after insurance discounts. The same package in France–which has price controls under socialized medicine–costs $85.
The chief beneficiary of this legalized price-gouging has been Mylan’s CEO, Heather Bresch.
The daughter of U..S. Senator Joseph Manchin (D-WV), she joined Mylan in 1992 and held various positions within the company. Among these: Its chief lobbyist before Congress.
It was in that capacity that she persuaded Congress to enact a bill requiring all public schools to carry EpiPens for students with food allergies. It was signed into law by President Barack Obama in November, 2013.
Over the next three years, schools nationwide bought EpiPens by the truckload. And Mylan jacked up its prices for the EpiPen every other quarter.
On January 1, 2012, Heather Bresch became Mylan’s CEO.
But it wasn’t enough to have a monopoly on a device millions of men, women and children desperately needed. In 2014, true to its “profits-at-any-price” philosophy, Mylan reincorporated in the Netherlands to lower its effective tax rate.
It did so through a corporate accounting trick known as a tax inversion, and thus claiming the status of a foreign-owned corporation although its headquarters remained in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania.
Even her own father, U..S. Senator Joseph Manchin, condemned Mylan’s use of the inversion scheme and said it should be illegal.
But Bresch fiercely defended it in an interview with the New York Times: “You can’t maintain competitiveness by staying at a competitive disadvantage. I mean you just can’t.”
No doubt, with her $18 million-a-year CEO salary and moneyed ties to high-powered attorneys and influential members of Congress, Bresch thinks herself invulnerable.
But all that could quickly change–if even a small number of her victims become angry enough.
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PLEASE BE AWARE OF ALLIGATORS IN THE LAKE.
So warns a sign at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Hotel, in Bay Lake, Fla. To drive home the message, it features an eye-catching symbol: A green alligator, its jaws open wide.
Just minutes away lies the Grand Floridian Hotel at Walt Disney World Resort, where, on June 14, a sign read:
It’s likely that the parents of two-year-old Lane Graves wish they had chosen the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Hotel for their vacation spot.
Had they done so, their son might well be alive today.
On June 14, an alligator, estimated at seven feet, snatched Lane as he waded in less than six inches of water at nightfall.
His father, Matt, rushed into the water to save Lane. But he was attacked by a second alligator as he fought for his son. He suffered several bites before the two alligators disappeared into the lagoon.
The next day, an Orange County Sheriff’s dive team found Lane’s intact body.
The Graves family, natives of landlocked Omaha, Nebraska, were overwhelmed with grief.
“We are devastated and ask for privacy during this extremely difficult time,” said a statement released by a family friend on June 16.
The Graves family were not the only ones shocked by the lack of an alligator warning at Disney.
Several tourists interviewed at the nearby Hyatt shared similar outrage.
“We didn’t know there weren’t any signs like they have here, ‘Beware of Alligators,'” Hyatt guest Chloe Giles, 21, told PEOPLE. “We thought they had a big sign like they have here: ‘Beware of Alligators.’ “
Three weeks before the fatal snatching of Lane Graves, Dani Saunders, Christopher Spackman and their two young daughters, Charlie and Laila, visited Disney in Orlando, Fla. They stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort, but one night they went to a beach on Bay Lake to watch fireworks.
Grand Floridian Hotel at Walt Disney World Resort
“It’s the same area that the lagoon goes into,” Saunders said. “And we went at the same time– at 9:30 as the other people were there.”
In a state where the alligator population numbers at more than one million, Florida residents know the dangers and keep small children away from ponds and lakes. But many out-of-state visitors aren’t aware of threat posed by the reptiles.
An official at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission stated that May and June are typically mating season for alligators.
The Commission’s executive director, Nick Wiley, announced that his agency had taken and killed five alligators who were suspected of the attack.
Even more damning for Disney, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Disney staff at a nearby resort knew about guests feeding alligators, and had ignored requests to put up a protective fence around the lagoon.
Mike Hamilton, a custodian at the Polynesian Resort Village–a short distance from the Grand Floridian resort–warned his employer that gators were swimming too close to guests and that a protective fence should be erected to keep them at bay.
“The entire property is interconnected via canals so it is difficult to keep [alligators} out of the lakes. Gators are on all of the golf courses. The team attempts to relocate the gators to the uninhabited natural areas as best they can, but the gators don’t understand the boundaries,” former Disney executive Duncan Dickson told the Sentinel.
According to The Wrap, guests at the Polynesian Resort Village–which charges $2,000 and $3,000 per night for a room–commonly feed the alligators.
“Disney has known about the problem of guests feeding the alligators well prior to the opening of the bungalows,” a source told The Wrap.
The day after divers found the body of Lane, Disney announced that it was reviewing its policies about warning signs.
“We are conducting a swift and thorough review of all our processes and protocols,” Walt Disney World Vice President Jacquee Wahler said in a statement on June 16. “This includes the number, placement and working of our signage and warnings.”
Among the changes:
- “Tick Tock,” the Croc from “Peter Pan,” has been removed from the park’s Festival of Fantasy parade.
- So has “Louis,” the trumpet-playing alligator from “The Princess and the Frog,” who was supposed to be part of the Friendship Faire castle show.
- The Jungle Cruise tour guides will no longer joke about crocodiles eating children as they narrate a boat tour through the world’s rivers.
- The Kilimanjaro Safari ride has dropped references to a crocodile pit.
This is typically how an incompetent bureaucracy operates:
- Ignore repeated warnings about a problem that poses a threat to its customers. The reason: To avoid spending money–most of which will otherwise go to the top officials of the company.
- When the predicted disaster occurs, the company issues a public apology–and makes “security theater” gestures to reassure the public.
There is no word as yet whether the Graves family intends to file a wrongful death lawsuit against Walt Disney World. But only such a lawsuit–and a huge financial loss–will convince this corporation to make a genuine effort to protect its guests.
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