We all know that the guy who raised the price of the infection-fighting drug Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 a pill is a creep. Now, Congress wants to dig deeper into his sketchy pricing measures. In fact, earlier today, a special congressional committee launched an investigation into the methods of pharmaceutical pricing, focusing specifically on medical cost hikes by four companies.
The Senate Special Committee on Aging has received several complaints from both the medical community and patients regarding recent perceived price gouging. The committee decided to look into the matter, sending letters to Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Turing Pharmaceuticals, Retrophin and Rodelis Therapeutics – seeking information regarding each company’s pricing policies.
In its investigation, the panel plans to examine the increase of prices on recently acquired generic drugs, as well as the various mergers and acquisitions that have affected the cost of such drugs. The committee also will explore and evaluate the role of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in its process for approving generic drugs and the federal agency’s distribution protocols.
Committee chair Senator Susan Collins said in a statement that, “The sudden, aggressive price hikes for a variety of drugs used widely for decades affect patients and healthcare providers and the overall cost of healthcare.”
The committee’s ranking minority member, Senator Claire McCaskill, pointed out that federal congressional action is necessary because some recent drug price hikes “have looked like little more than price gouging.”
The announcement of the congressional investigation follows Valeant’s disclosure that federal prosecutors in New York and Massachusetts recently subpoenaed the company for information regarding its drug distribution policies and pricing methods. The subpoenas also hones in on documentation Valeant submitted to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The committee’s letter to J. Michael Pearson, CEO and Chairman of Valeant, requested information about the company recently acquiring the rights to sell cardiac arrest-treating drugs, Nitropress and Isuprel. The committee also requested information about Cuprimine, a medication used to treat the symptoms of Wilson’s Disease, a rare disease that causes too much copper to accumulate in the body’s vital organs.
The committee sought internal company records in any way related to Valeant’s 625% price increase for Nitropress, 820% hike for Isuprel and 2,949% increase for Cuprimine.
The Senate committee’s letter to Martin Shkreli, founder and head of Turing Pharmaceuticals, requested information about the New York company’s decision to raise the price of Daraprim from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill. The price hike sparked public outrage and amid the protests, Turing said it would reduce the price of the drug by the end of the year.
The committee has scheduled a preliminary hearing for December 9th.