It’s not particularly hard to win a new game called EpiPen Tycoon: As Mylan CEO Heather Bresch, you just jack up drug prices to keep investors happy and boost your salary. If public outrage rises too high, you just wait it out–or press a button to “Call Your Dad (Senator)” or “Offer Generic Version.”
It’s a tidy simplification of the real story. Mylan raised prices on EpiPen packs 400% since 2007, from $57 to $600; Bresch’s compensation rose as the drug price did, from $2,453,456 in 2007 to $18,931,068 in 2015. When customers became angry enough, and a petition quickly gathered more than 100,000 signatures, Mylan eventually announced that it would roll out a $300 generic version.
Of course, as a very short video game, it misses some nuance. The drug was out of patent and competitors chose not to offer cheaper versions (when Martin Shkreli raised the price of a drug that AIDS patients take from $13.50 to $750 a pill, it was also out of patent). There are some fundamental problems with the market. But that doesn’t change the basic premise of EpiPen Tycoon.
In the game, if you let prices stagnate, the board considers replacing you as CEO. If the price of an EpiPen pack is too high, tiny characters who approach with bee allergies die. Still, public outrage only swells when something happens on social media–and it quickly passes as people lose interest. When you hit a $25 million salary, you win the game, and leave on a private jet for St. Barts. Sounds like fun.