A Senate subcommittee has asked four drug companies to provide company records, research and marketing cost information to better understand how drugmakers set the prices of products they've recently acquired.
The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, which on Wednesday will host its first hearing on the topic, hasn't yet said which, if any, of the companies complied with the request for records.
The companies were each asked to provide about 20 sets of records, including communication with board members and any correspondence with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The committee has said it also will investigate pharmaceutical company mergers and acquisitions and the FDA's drug-approval process. The goal is to shed light on what's become a firestorm in the healthcare industry.
This summer, several companies scooped up the rights to sell drugs and immediately hiked up their prices. Turing Pharmaceuticals in August raised the price of an older drug used to treat a parasitic infection from $13.50 a tablet to $750 a tablet. Other companies did the same with drugs to treat multidrug resistant tuberculosis, kidney disease and cardiac arrest.
Current Turing CEO Martin Shkreli, who was at the helm of two of the companies under investigation when the price increases occurred, has stood by his actions. He said at a recent Forbes Healthcare Summit that his duty to shareholders is to maximize profits.
Everyone from Congress to presidential candidates have decried the believed profiteering of drugmakers, and Wednesday's hearing is just one of many official gatherings where the issue and solutions are to be discussed.
Witnesses scheduled for the hearing include a Johns Hopkins University professor of health policy, the director of the drug information service at the University of Utah College of Pharmacy, the vice chairman for clinical and translation research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association.
Committee Chairwoman Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.) said in a statement when the investigation was announced that the recent price jumps are cause for bipartisan concern and need to be understood.
“The sudden, aggressive price hikes for a variety of drugs used widely for decades affect patients and healthcare providers and the overall cost of healthcare,” she said. “These substantial increases have the potential to inflate the cost of healthcare for Americans, especially our seniors, by hundreds of millions of dollars each year.”