Congressional committees swing into action on pharma pricing controversy


Senate committee targets Valeant and Turing Pharma; House Democrats lean on Republican committee leadership to act

A day after the White House, via HHS, set up a public airing of pricing-related issues, the Senate Special Committee on Aging, led by Susan Collins (R-ME) and with Democratic support, sent a long list of document requests to Valeant Pharma, Turing Pharma, Retrophin and Rodelis Therapeutics. Each letter seeks documents and communications that could be documented, on how these companies had made decisions to raise prices of various drugs by hundreds to thousands of percentage points in recent months. The requests are specific to certain drugs: Nitropress, Isuprel and Cuprimine (Valeant); Daraprim (Turing); Thiola (Retrphin); and Seromycin (Rodelis). All of these drugs are off patent, but only a few have sourcing alternatives to the named companies.

On the House side, all 18 of the Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, led by ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-MD), held a press conference to publicize a letter sent to the committee chair, Jason Chaffetz (R-UT). They want to schedule a committee vote to issue subpoenas to J. Michael Pearson, chairman of Valeant, and Martin Shkreli, CEO of Turing, “to produce documents they have been withholding from Congress about the skyrocketing prices of their prescription drugs.” The Democratic committee members have been agitating for action since September; both companies had declined to comply with previous requests.

It’s hard to tell, short of subpoenas and subsequent legal actions, what either committee can do to obtain the documents; also, Valeant is already under investigation by federal prosecutors. It’s worth noting that one of the proposals floated in September by the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank, is to require public disclosure of pricing analysis under certain circumstances.

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