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Senate Panel Opens Probe of EpiPen Price Hike

Group Protests EpiPen Price Hike at Mylan 0:52

A Senate panel announced Wednesday that it would begin examining drugmaker Mylan Pharmaceuticals' massive markup on EpiPens, a device used by millions of Americans to prevent fatal allergic reactions.

The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has opened a "preliminary inquiry" on the matter, according to a joint statement from the panel's chairman, Rob Portman of Ohio, and ranking member Claire McCaskill of Missouri.

"Our review of this matter will be robust, thorough, and bipartisan," they said. "Parents and school districts in Ohio, Missouri and across the country need affordable access to this life-saving drug, and we share their concern over Mylan's sustained price increases."

Related: EpiPen Price Hike Has Parents of Kids With Allergies Scrambling Ahead of School Year

The price of an EpiPen in the United States has risen from around $100 to more than $500 since 2008, doctors and patients say.

Mylan has no competition, maintaining a virtual monopoly over a product that has become a part of daily life for people suffering from potentially deadly allergies, such as to nuts or bee stings.

The device, about the size of a marker, is loaded with epinephrine, and in the event of an allergic reaction, is jammed into the victim's thigh to stop them from going into anaphylactic shock.

Other members of the Senate have demanded Mylan reconsider the price hike, or called for hearings.

Related: Industry Insiders Estimate EpiPen Costs No More Than $30

Mylan CEO Heather Bresch told CNBC last month that the EpiPen's label price grew bigger as as it passed through middlemen on its way from manufacture to market. She pledged to find ways to "ensuring that everybody who needs an EpiPen has an EpiPen."

EpiPen Prices Rocket Along with Drugmaker Executive's Pay 1:11

The company says it is giving insured patients a $300 coupon and is developing a cheaper generic version. It also says it has given away hundreds of thousands of free devices.