Gayle Manchin pushed for states to require schools to purchase medical devices that would combat life-threatening allergic reactions after taking over the National Association of State Boards of Education in 2012.
The move helped to allow Mylan Specialty, the company that makes EpiPens, to have a stronghold as one of the only devices of its kind to be used in school nurses' offices across the country. While eleven states implemented laws requiring epinephrine auto-injectors, almost every other state began to recommend that schools stock them after the White House's "EpiPen Law" in 2013 offered funding preference to those that did.
Gayle Manchin is the mother of Heather Bresch, who happens to be the CEO of Mylan.
The company is currently the subject of congressional investigations concerning large price increases. It is also facing an antitrust probe by the New York attorney general due to its EpiPen sales contracts it holds with schools.
Bresch is planning to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee later this week at a hearing that was called by both Democratic and Republican members of the panel.
Mylan had sponsored a number of health presentations at the association's annual conference in 2012 relating to three of the largest school health concerns, including allergies, writes Tobias Salinger for The New York Daily News.
Records from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show that Chicago-based allergy doctor Ruchi Gupta, the presenter at the panel, received over $400,000 last year from Mylan in order to complete research. Drug and device makers' payments to doctors began to be released by the company in 2013. At the same time, Gupta received $17,000 from Mylan for speaking, education, food and travel.
Around the same time frame, the company created its "EpiPen4Schools" program, in which it provided more than 700,000 free EpiPens to 65,000 schools, or about half of the public schools in the nation. The investigation being completed by the New York attorney general concerns this program, which requires schools to purchase EpiPens rather than a competing brand if they were able to obtain discounted versions. However, the company said it has since changed this policy, writes Jayne O'Donnell for USA Today.
The association announced a new "epinephrine policy initiative" in December 2012, which, it said in a press release, would "help state boards of education as they develop student health policies regarding anaphylaxis and epinephrine auto-injector access and use." Included in the policy "discussion guide" were a number of key components that should be a part of school policies and state legislation, including protection from legal liability for the schools.
This is the first time that food allergies were addressed by the group as policy, despite its own admittance that this has been an issue since around 2000.
"There is no truth to the suggestion that the company's efforts were anything but straightforward or that we are aware of anyone advocating inappropriately for the right of schoolchildren to have access to potential life-saving medicine," the statement said.