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Heather Bresch, CEO of embattled drug maker Mylan, testified before a House panel last week that one of the main reasons the company had to hike up the prices on its signature EpiPens from $100 to $600 is the "more than one billion dollars" it has invested in the past decade "to enhance the product and make it more available."
So, as Congress has been trying to figure out the company's business model, a medical technologies expert and a doctor have been physically taking apart Mylan's famed auto-injectors to find out exactly how — and where — that money was spent.
NBC News sent new and old versions of the EpiPen to PA Consulting Group, a UK-based technology consulting firm. One of their lines of business is designing new auto-injectors for pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer. They tore down the EpiPens to their base components and laid out the parts.
Inside the EpiPen with a February 2009 expiration date there was a housing, sleeve, needle cartridge and stopper, stopper driver, brass plunger, drive spring, release collar, thrust washer, rear collar, and a safety cap.
Meanwhile, inside the new version with a June 2015 expiration date there was a housing, needle cartridge and stopper, plastic plunger, drive spring, release collar, and safety cap, as well as a needle shroud, control spring, carrier, control clips, and a rear case.
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According to Kevin Deane: “It's the same core device that's been in use for some time. The drive spring in the new device is more robust than with other similar devices, and held a lot of energy.”
Deane added: “While Mylan did do a few things in making it a bit more normal for commercial use, the key things driving fluid through have remained unchanged, and the plastic components look similar to a standard commercial-use auto-injector.”
Deane estimated the redesign may have cost several million dollars to commission. Kevin concluded: “The capital costs for the automated manufacturing could run into the double-digit millions.”