Two prominent Democrats are investigating why Valeant Pharmaceuticals dramatically increased the price of two heart drugs frequently used in hospitals after the firm purchased exclusive marketing rights from another company earlier this year.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), ranking member of the Senate subcommittee on health, and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, on Friday demanded information justifying the price increases of Isuprel and Nitropress, which Valeant purchased from Marathon Pharmaceuticals in February.
According to an April story in the Wall Street Journal, Valeant immediately raised the list price of Isuprel sixfold to $1,347 a vial and Nitropress threefold to $806 a vial.
Hospitals frequently use the injectable drugs to treat acute episodes of abnormal heart rhythm, congestive heart failure and hypertension.
In a letter sent to Valeant CEO Michael Pearson (PDF), the two Democrats asked for contracts with outside suppliers, other cost estimates, profit projections and the prices charged in foreign countries “in order to evaluate the underlying causes of these price increases.” The information must be submitted to the committees by Sept. 3.
“Isuprel and Nitropress are just two recent examples of drug companies taking money out of the pockets of Americans,” Sanders said in a statement. “We must get to the bottom of the enormous increase in drug prices around the country.”
In a separate letter (PDF), the two Democrats also demanded manufacturing cost information from Lake Forest, Ill.-based Hospira Inc. Hospira sold the rights to sell the drugs to Marathon in December 2013 and remains its sole producer.
A Valeant official in response to a request for comment defended the price increases it levied after purchasing the right to market the drugs.
“Each drug is priced based on value. Innovative medicines are preventing costly complications of chronic diseases, reducing the number of visits to the emergency room, length of hospital stays, and helping patients avoid major surgeries,” said Laurie Little, an investor relations spokeswoman for Valeant. "The prices that pharmaceutical companies – including Valeant – set reflect the value of these products in the acute care setting, as well as hospital reimbursement rates.”