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SRSLY: All In The (EpiPen) Family

Your three-minute read on the best reporting you probably missed.


The best reporting you probably missed

David Epstein

Welcome to SRSLY, an (experimental) newsletter highlighting under-exposed accountability journalism. We’ll distill the important information from investigative reporting you probably missed, and deliver it to you in three-minutes-or-less worth of reading. Sign up to have it delivered to your inbox. (You can, of course, unsubscribe at the first whiff of a bad joke.)

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If you notice the news and/or aren’t that guy in Plato’s favorite cave, you’ve probably already suffered rage-induced anaphylaxis while reading about the cool 600 percent price increase for EpiPens in recent years. In all the commotion about unaffordable lifesaving injections, however, you probably missed a USA Today story explaining how Mylan Specialty, maker of EpiPen, developed “a near monopoly in school nurses’ offices.” Your three W’s:


USA Today reports that, in 2012, Gayle Manchin became head of the nonprofit National Association of State Boards of Education, and “spearheaded an unprecedented effort” to make schools purchase emergency treatments for allergic reactions. Manchin’s efforts were rewarded, as 11 states created laws to require epinephrine auto-injectors (i.e. EpiPens) in schools, and other states recommended schools get them. And we’re using the strong form of “recommend” here, since the 2013 “EpiPen Law,” as the White House called it, gave funding preference to schools stocking EpiPens. So this is the kind of “recommend” like when you’re playing make-believe and making “vroom” sounds on that Harley parked outside a bar and someone burly walks out and recommends you stop doing that.

What’s wrong?

Good question. Seems totally reasonable for schools to have emergency treatments handy. Did I mention that the CEO of Mylan is Heather Bresch? Did I mention that her maiden name is Heather Manchin? Did I mention that Gayle Manchin, who helped get schools to purchase EpiPens gave birth to Heather Manchin who runs the company that profits when schools purchase EpiPens? (Oh and Gayle’s husband and Heather’s dad is Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.) USA Today mentioned all of that stuff. This might take supportive parenting to a heretofore unseen plane of existence.

What now?

According to The Guardian, on Wednesday, Bresch appeared before Congress as part of an investigation of the price hikes, and said that the company “never intended” for EpiPens to become so expensive. Such a pain; it’s like you can’t even leave drugs alone for a second without them hiking their own prices. From now on, drugs, you will heed our intentions or go to your room.

They Said It

Mylan will “take our punches, they’ll fly back to their mansions in their private jets and laugh all the way to the bank while our constituents suffer, file for bankruptcy, and watch their children get sicker, and in some cases die.” - Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, giving his thoughts on how effective the Congressional grilling would be

#facepalm Of The Week

According to the Boston Globe, Robert Morin was perhaps a bit eccentric, but a masterful nest egg-builder and the kind of alum universities dream of. Morin graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 1963, and worked in a library at UNH as a cataloger for 50 years. His longtime financial adviser told the Globe that everyday Morin would have Fritos and a Coke for breakfast, a cheese sandwich at lunch, and a microwaved dinner at home. A UNH press release claims that Morin was also quite the reader, and that he read every book published in the U.S. in the 1930s, (in chronological order, natch), save for textbooks, children’s books, and cooking and tech books. And when Morin passed away last year, he left the dough he socked away to the university he devoted his life to. He socked away $4 million … let that sink in … now the controversy is about how UNH is spending it. Morin earmarked $100,000 for the library, and the university has decided to spend $1 million on a scoreboard for the football stadium, which just had a $25 million renovation, according to Business Insider. Some alums are a bit perturbed. If you’re trying to put this in some mental context of college sports, consider that UNH isn’t even one of the 128 colleges that compete in the most competitive college football division. In UNH’s defense, Morin explicitly told his financial adviser he wanted most of the gift to be for the school’s unrestricted use. In not-their-defense, they’re spending $1 million on a scoreboard.

Tweet of the Week

Additional research by Kate Brown.

Tips are appreciated. The paper kind, or the green paper kind.

ProPublica does not vouch for the accuracy of stories appearing on SRSLY. We select, review and summarize key points from accountability stories that may not have gotten wide exposure. But we are not able to independently vet or vouch for the accuracy of stories produced by others. We will inform readers if we learn that stories have been challenged publicly or corrected.

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