Hey, you know about the Mylan controversy? Yeah, the company that bought the rights to the EpiPen and then jacked up the price by several gazillion percent? It now charges nearly $500 for a gizmo that probably cost them about three bucks to make.
Well, I’d managed to forget, or suppress, its Vermont connection until I was reminded by recent accounts in VTDigger and the Burlington Free Press. To wit, the Shumlin administration arranged a peculiar land swap in St. Albans to facilitate an expansion of Mylan’s operations here.
A land swap that costs the General Fund about a half million dollars a year.
(That’s about the price tag we “couldn’t afford” to spend on an Ethics Commission. Just sayin’.)
UPDATE: As Auditor Doug Hoffer points out, Mylan is also a beneficiary of the Vermont Employment Growth Initiative (VEGI) program to the tune of $5.7 million. More on this below.
I won’t rehash all the details here; you can check out VTDigger’s 2013 story, which lays it all out in excruciating detail. I will note one thing before moving on: this turd blossom featured the guy I’m beginning to think of as the Joe Btfsplk of the Shumlin administration.
The idea… was largely the brainchild of Lawrence Miller, the Commerce Secretary.
Mmmyeah, EB-5, the endless Vermont Health Connect reboot, and now Mylan. Quite the resume you’re building, Mr. Miller.
Anyway, the present point is, the state sacrificed much to give poor little Mylan a break.
Yes, the company richly profiting off someone else’s drug research and the susceptibility of millions to dangerous allergic reactions. The company whose CEO has seen her compensation skyrocket thanks to her winning “strategy” of slapping ever-larger price tags on a patented, life-saving drug.
This led to uncomfortable moments at a Shumlin presser on Thursday, as the governor tried to thread the needle between decrying corporate gangsterism and putting a brave face on his government’s relationship with said gangster.
“We need to remember that Mylan is a great employer in Vermont, and they have very dedicated employees in St. Albans who are making some innovations that are critical to Americans’ health care,” Shumlin said.
Shumlin also called Mylan a “great corporate partner,” meaning, I suppose, that it’s doing some good in Vermont and most of its damage elsewhere. But then there’s this tidbit from late May:
Mylan Technologies says it’s cutting about 60 jobs at its St. Albans plant.
The pharmaceutical company says it decided to trim the workforce at the St. Albans site by about 10 percent as part of ongoing efforts to operate the business as efficiently as possible.
To recap: Mylan got a generous concession in 2013 for creating 100 jobs. Three years later, Mylan cut 60 positions.
Net job creation: 40.
Given Mylan’s track record as a “corporate citizen,” is there any doubt that it’ll slash more jobs in Vermont if it’d mean a nickel more in profit?
In a very real way, I sympathize for Governor Shumlin and his minions. These days, corporations expect a little handjob under the table in exchange for their siting and expansion decisions. Vermont does less of this stuff than most states. But the stench lingers, and I have my doubts that these kind of deals help more than they hurt.
There’s the obvious immediate question: How does Mylan’s May cutback affect the optimistic 2013 calculations on the benefits of the deal? Is it still a win-win for Mylan, St. Albans and the state?
If not, which entity is the newly-minted loser? Two guesses, and neither one is the EpiPen extortionist.
And then there’s the larger question: Do we really want to do these kinds of deals, get in bed with the kind of corporations who view people and governments as assets to exploit for profit and discard without qualm? Or are we better off finding new, fairer, and more broad-based development strategies that don’t subject us to the whims of any single entity?
UPDATE: As noted above, Mylan Technologies was awarded a $5.7 million VEGI grant in late 2012. VEGI is a
big ol’ barrel of pork program designed to encourage job creation in Vermont. It is supposed to generate jobs that would otherwise not be created. However, as discussed repeatedly in this space, there is no way to check on the assertions made by applicants, which means there’s no way to audit their performance. Did they actually create jobs? That’s a matter of faith. As outgoing Commerce Secretary Pat Moulton famously put it,
… we believe the CEOs, when they sign an application, that the material is true and correct.
And this kind of doe-eyed belief extends to Mylan CEO Heather Bresch, who has become the Martin Shkreli of 2016 — the poster child for unfettered greed in prescription drug pricing.
Pat Moulton believes Ms. Bresch. How could we possibly disagree?