Members of Congress Put Costly Drugs in Their Crosshairs

November 7th, 2015 by admin
  • by Shannon Firth

WASHINGTON — Prescription drug prices are getting more attention on Capitol Hill, with two senators from opposite sides of the aisle announcing plans to investigate while House Democrats declared they were forming a task force on the issue as well.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) this week announced a bipartisan probe into drug costs, according to a press release from McCaskill’s office. The senators are requesting drug pricing information from four companies whose products’ prices have recently spiked: Valeant Pharmaceuticals, Turing Pharmaceuticals, Retrophin, and Rodelis Therapeutics.

“We need to get to the bottom of why we’re seeing huge spikes in drug prices that seemingly have no relationship to research and development costs,” McCaskill said, in the statement.

According to the release, the investigation will look into:

  • “Substantial price increases on recently acquired off-patent drugs”
  • “Mergers and acquisitions within the pharmaceutical industry that have led to dramatic increases in off-patent drug prices”
  • “The FDA’s role in the drug approval process for generic drugs, the agency’s distribution protocols, and, if necessary, its off-label regulatory regime”

The Senate Special Committee on Aging has scheduled an initial hearing on this issue for Dec. 9.

At a press briefing on Wednesday, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) announced the formation of the “Affordable Drug Pricing Task Force.”

House representatives said they hope to advance legislation that would enable Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to negotiate Medicare prices and to force drug companies to be transparent about the cost of making their products.

Doggett cited the now infamous example of Turing Pharmaceutical’s Daraprim (pyrimethamine), a drug for treating infections common in patients with cancer and AIDS. After the company acquired the drug 3 months ago, the price went from $13.50 to $750 per tablet. On Tuesday, the company said it would lower the price by the end of the year, but did not say by how much.

“But exorbitant drug prices are not about one wrongdoing, or one drug, or one class of drugs; they are a systemic problem that involve a wide range of manufacturers,” said Doggett while standing at a podium flanked by posters of Turing’s CEO Martin Shkrelivilified by the media for his tone-deaf comment that his actions would benefit society — and Michael Pearson, CEO of Valeant Pharmaceuticals.

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Posted in Dependable Information, General Interest, Medical Innovation, Practical Medicine

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