Costly Prescription Drugs Under Scrutiny of Congress
Written by Editor   
Tuesday, November 10, 2015 07:19 PM

Prescription drug prices are getting more attention on Capitol Hill, with two senators from opposite sides of the aisle announcing plans to investigate, while House Democrats declared they were forming a task force on the issue as well.

With the formation of the new task force and several related bills pending in the House, Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said the message to big pharma is clear: "The rip-off days are over."

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) announced a bipartisan probe into drug costs. The senators are requesting drug pricing information from four companies whose products' prices have recently spiked.

"We need to get to the bottom of why we're seeing huge spikes in drug prices that seemingly have no relationship to research and development costs," McCaskill said, in the statement.

According to the release, the investigation will look into:

  • "Substantial price increases on recently acquired off-patent drugs"

  • "Mergers and acquisitions within the pharmaceutical industry that have led to dramatic increases in off-patent drug prices"

  • "The FDA's role in the drug approval process for generic drugs, the agency's distribution protocols, and, if necessary, its off-label regulatory regime"

The Senate Special Committee on Aging has scheduled an initial hearing on this issue for Dec. 9.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) announced the formation of the "Affordable Drug Pricing Task Force.”  House representatives said they hope to advance legislation that would enable Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to negotiate Medicare prices and to force drug companies to be transparent about the cost of making their products.

“Exorbitant drug prices are not about one wrongdoing, or one drug, or one class of drugs; they are a systemic problem that involve a wide range of manufacturers," said Doggett.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) said the trend of drug companies buying existing drugs that lack competition and then "cranking up the price" until an alternative comes on the market is worrisome. Meanwhile, companies continue to claim the information around the cost of development is proprietary.

"If drug companies are going to make the argument that they need to price these drugs at such exorbitant rates because of the cost of [research and development] then they need to be proving it," she said.