Big Pharma To Be Investigated By Congress For Rising Drug Costs

By McCarton Ackerman 11/18/15

A House panel confirmed that they will be investigating Valeant Pharmaceuticals International.

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A U.S. House of Representatives investigative panel confirmed that they plan to hold a hearing next year on drastically rising drug costs, but the focus could mainly be on the pricing tactics of one pharmaceutical company in particular.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform said that the panel is already conducting an investigation into drug policies and have solicited numerous drug companies for further information. The primary focus of the investigation will reportedly be on Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, which has massively increased the price of two heart medications.

Top executives at Valeant were directly involved with the operations of specialty pharmacy Philidor Rx Services. The top Democrat on the investigative panel, Rep. Elijah Cummings, wrote that “Valeant employees may have been personally involved in questionable billing practices that led Valeant to cut ties with Philidor last month."

A recent report by Reuters claimed that two Valeant employees were copied on an email last November that explained how employees at Philidor could bill the highest amount an insurance company was willing to pay by resubmitting rejected claims at different price points. Valeant acknowledged a relationship with Philidor shortly after, but said they had cut ties with Philidor because they had “lost confidence” in them due to questions about their business practices.

The U.S. Senate Special Committee already launched a probe earlier this month into drug pricing at Valeant. Valeant Chief Executive J. Michael Pearson has not commented on any of the ongoing investigations.

Pharmaceutical company Turing will also reportedly be a focus of the House panel. Turing CEO Martin Shkreli angered just about everyone last September when he hiked the price of life-saving AIDS medication Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 per pill, a 5,455% increase. He announced a few days later that he would lower the price of the drug “in response to the anger that was felt by people."

Imprimis Pharmaceuticals has since stepped in by offering an identical, but non-FDA approved version of the drug for $1 per pill.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.