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Story highlights

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin defended his daughter in an interview

The company of which she is CEO, Mylan, hiked prices for the allergy drug EpiPen

(CNN) —  

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin defended his daughter in an interview Tuesday after the pharmaceutical company she leads raised the price of EpiPens – a move that thrust the father-daughter pair into the center of the political debate over healthcare costs and drug prices.

Speaking to Bloomberg News, Manchin praised his daughter, Mylan CEO Heather Bresch, as “compassionate” and “generous.” The former West Virginia governor said that ever since Bresch has been at Mylan and he’s been in politics, “we made a point” to keep those parts of their lives separate.

“We make a point, ever since I’ve been in this position, and when I was governor, we made a point – we just didn’t get involved. It’s so convoluted, I don’t understand. To get into something you don’t understand and your daughter being in this type of industry – it was best I stayed away,” he said.

“My daughter is my daughter with unconditional love, and she’s the most amazing person that I know,” he continued. “She’s so compassionate and generous in how she’s always lived her life.”

Bresch became a target of derision over the summer after a nearly 500% increase in the cost of the lifesaving allergy drug EpiPen, which is one of the company’s signature products. The drug, which cost around $100 in 2009, shot up to as much as $600.

The move sparked outrage from parents with children who rely on the drug, and even prompted comments from Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on the need to rein in rising drug costs. One of those parents was actually a colleague of Manchin – Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar – and multiple members of Congress called for hearings on the spiking cost.

In the interview, Manchin suggested that the controversy was a “blessing in disguise” because it would lead to greater attention to the challenge of rising drug costs.

“They’re all too expensive. So if there is a way to find out that we can deliver it at a better, more economical price, and still have the innovative and creative juices flowing, I guess that makes all these things happen – you’ve got to find the balance somewhere,” he said.

In response to criticism of the price hike, Mylan announced last week plans to launch a generic EpiPen at a 50% discount to the branded version of the life saving allergy treatment. The generic EpiPen will be “identical” to the branded product in terms of how the drug is made and how the auto-injector functions, Mylan said.