The recent cost hikes at four pharmaceutical companies is being inspected by a special congressional committee. The four companies include Rodelis Therapeutics, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International (VRX), Retrophin (RTRX) and Turing Pharmaceuticals who all received letters from the Senate Special Committee on Aging regarding the cost upsurge.
The panel is focusing on the price hikes of off-patent drugs. Factors which could affect the price hikes, such as recent acquisitions and mergers, are also being examined. The special congressional committee will also look into the role of the United States (U.S.) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the generic drug's approval and distribution processes.
The Senate committee demanded information for Valeant's blood pressure drug Nitropress whose price hiked by 625 percent ($1,346.62 each vial) on the day of its acquisition. Its heart drug Isuprel surged by 820 percent (25 pills priced at $36,811) and rheumatoid arthritis drug Cuprimine increased by 2,949 percent (100 capsules priced at $26,189).
On Oct. 14, Valeant announced that district attorneys from New York and Massachusetts subpoenaed the company, demanding information about Valeant's distribution and pricing policies. Moreover, federal prosecutors demanded information about how Valeant assists patients in medication payments, zeroing in on the information that company sent to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The congress' action followed soon after.
For Retrophin, the Senate committee is asking for information as to why its kidney drug Thiola rose from $1.50 to $30 per tablet after license rights acquisition.
Turing's anti-infective drug Daraprim, which is used for the treatment of toxoplasmosis and other diseases, rose from $13.50 to $750 per pill overnight. Turing's CEO and former hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli underwent much media scrutiny for justifying the over 5000 percent increase of Daraprim and calling a probing journalist a 'moron' on social media.
Rodelis Therapeutics' tuberculosis drug Seromycin rose to $10,800 from $500 for 30 pills. In September, the company withdrew the cost hike and returned Seromycin to its previous owner.
"The sudden, aggressive price hikes for a variety of drugs used widely for decades affect patients and health care providers and the overall cost of health care," said committee chair and Maine Senator Susan Collins. Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill added that the congress needs to step in because several price hikes looked more than just overcharging.