Public scrutiny and outrage in the case of the EpiPen and the CEO of Mylan Pharmaceuticals is well-deserved. Heather Bresch increased her own salary to over $18 million while sticking consumers with a 400% increase in the price of the Pen over the past nine years.
But, as the story develops, other things have come to light. Like the fact that Bresch is the daughter of Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. And that she and her company’s PAC have donated over $60,000 to her father. And that she incorporated the company in the Netherlands in a sleazy tax inversion scheme. And that, as a lobbyist for Mylan, she helped get a bill passed in 2013 that requires all public schools to have EpiPens on hand. Mylan made a lot of money on that one.
All of that is bad enough. But now we come to find out that the American taxpayers paid for the development of the EpiPen. That’s right, we paid for it. So any rhetoric we get about Research & Development is a load of bovine excrement.
In a 2009 interview with The Tampa Bay Times, the family of Sheldon Kaplan spoke about how Kaplan, a former NASA engineer, invented the EpiPen. When he was working for Survival Technology in Bethesda, MD, Kaplan improved on their design of an autoinjector. He was then approached by the Department of Defense in 1973. They wanted Kaplan to design an autoinjector for antidotes to nerve agents. Kaplan did so — also allowing for it to be filled with epinephrine — and the EpiPen was born. Kaplan moved on to biomechanical engineering, leaving STI. Though his name was on the patent for the EpiPen, he did not own it. Kaplan’s son, Michael told the Times:
“I don’t think that diminished the fact that he felt he had a legacy, that he made a difference. My dad was an extremely talented engineer, an analytical guy who delighted in solving technical issues… He was not famous; he was not wealthy. And I don’t think he would’ve liked to be. I don’t think he expected that.”
Mr. Kaplan died on September 21, 2009, knowing that he had made a difference in the lives of so many people. That’s what was important to him, not the money or fame. Here was a man who knew of his legacy, who knew that he had fulfilled his wish to help mankind. That he wasn’t filthy rich because of it didn’t bother him a bit.
Compare this with the people at Mylan who took an invention that taxpayers helped develop — by proxy of the Defense Department — and are, personally, making millions of dollars a year because of it. It’s such a contrast between Heather Bresch and Sheldon Kaplan. One is wallowing in her own greed and one never made a penny on his invention. I don’t think that a fiction writer could ever invent such a perfect juxtaposition.
Kaplan’s wife, Sheila, said that her husband had “achieved his life goal.”
“I don’t think many of us can say that, and I’m extremely proud of him.”
As we all should be. Sheldon Kaplan is a shining example of what we can be if we care about others. He didn’t die poor and destitute, he didn’t have to. He made a good living and lived a fulfilling life. More importantly, he had something Heather Bresch does not; compassion.
Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota is demanding that the Federal Trade Commission investigate Mylan and these insane price hikes. Klobuchar’s daughter is one of the millions who must carry an EpiPen due to food allergies.
If you want to sign a petition to demand prices be dropped on the EpiPen, please do so here.
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