Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday called on federal regulators to investigate much-maligned biotech firm Turing Pharmaceuticals' move to increase the price of a life-saving generic drug by more than 5,000%.
Clinton sent letters to the heads of the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission asking them to look into Turing's actions, which involve acquiring the right to sell the generic drug Daraprim, used for the treatment of toxoplasmosis, and immediately raising the price of the drug from $13.50 to $750 a pill.
Turing has since backed off that move, with CEO Martin Shkreli quoted as saying he would lower the price. To date the company has yet to either set a new price for Daraprim or give a timetable as to when a new price will be announced.
In her letter to the FDA Acting Commissioner Dr. Stephen Ostroff, Clinton requests the agency expedite any pending reviews of other generic alternatives to Daraprim, while allowing the drug to temporarily be imported from other countries.
"Despite widespread public outcry and the company's promise to make the drug 'more affordable,' Turing has not meaningfully lowered the price,” Clinton wrote. “The reality is that Turing has created an effective drug shortage in which patients with life-threatening infections have no affordable way to access the supply of standard-of-care drugs.”
In her letter to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, Clinton asked the agency to study ways to address the issue of price gouging when a drug has no market competition, such as in the case of Daraprim.
“I believe it would be a great service to Congress and the administration if the FTC would study and make recommendations on whether and how our laws might be amended to address this problem,” Clinton wrote.
Clinton's request follows news that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is investigating whether Turing violated antitrust laws by limiting distribution of Daraprim to prevent rival generic-drug makers from developing their own versions.
But the scrutiny doesn't end there.
Last month, congressional Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform wrote to Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, (R-Utah) requesting to subpoena Shrkeli and Valeant Pharmaceuticals CEO J. Michael Pearson to learn more about their pricing strategies.
Public outcry over Turing has brought increased attention to the issue of rising drug costs and made it a key campaign issue for a number of presidential candidates. Clinton and fellow Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont have singled out Turing and Shkreli in an effort to outline their plans to lower drug prices.
On Monday, Politico posted a video showing Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) at a private event in New Hampshire last week calling the move by some pharmaceutical firms to spike prices “pure profiteering."