The UFT has joined many people and institutions — including the New York State Attorney General and the U.S. Congress — in the chorus of opposition to the Mylan Corporation's repeated raising the price of potentially life-saving EpiPens from $100 a few years ago to the current $600.
But this opposition by the Teachers Retirement System and other city pension funds to Mylan's management is not new. Since 2012 we have repeatedly submitted shareowner proposals calling for an independent chairperson of the company and challenging executive pay.
We have been able to take these steps as shareholders of the company — though our actual holdings are modest and through our investment in index funds that buy shares in a broad selection of firms and industries.
We have financial issues with the company, including the fact that the backlash against the EpiPen price increase has affected our investment since the Mylan share price is down significantly since the scandal broke.
EpiPens are used to treat people — including children — suffering from anaphylactic shock, whose symptoms can include respiratory failure that may require hospitalization.
In 2013 Mylan spent $4 million lobbying Congress to pass the 2013 School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, which offered incentives to schools to stock the auto-injectors. Currently, EpiPens are mandatory for public schools in at least 11 states. The company shortly after that started “EpiPen4Schools,” which provided the drug to schools at a discounted price but also prohibited schools from buying competitors’ devices.
We are concerned that the price increase could lead schools around the country to cut back on EpiPen purchases, potentially put children's lives at risk. As teachers, we firmly believe that no school should choose between needed resources and the lives of their students.
For both humanitarian and financial reasons, we have urged the Mylan board of directors to establish rigorous independent oversight of the company's drug pricing strategies, and to take other steps to help preserve both its profitability and its responsibility to its customers.
But the UFT has long and proud legacy of fighting for health and other forms of social justice. Our activism on the EpiPen issue is designed to help transform the practices of a company in which we hold an interest to act in compliance with our beliefs as investors and a union.
—The Teacher Trustees of the NYC Teachers' Retirement Board