Big Pharma Price Hikes Could Lead To A Congressional Subpoena

The recent controversy over massive price hikes by pharmaceutical companies on prescription drugs has not stopped Quebec-based Valeant Pharmaceuticals from raising the price of two lifesaving heart drugs by a combined total of more than 735 percent this year, reported CBC News.

Valeant reportedly raised the price of Isuprel by $1,346.62 and Nitropress by $805.61, prompting more public outrage and attracting the wrong kind of attention from presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), who have announced an investigation into the staggering increases.

According to the report, Valeant and drug manufacturer Hospira have refused a request Cummings and Sanders submitted in early September, asking the pharmaceutical giants to turn over a number of documents that would explain the massive price hikes. This refusal led the representatives to send a letter on Sept. 28 to the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, requesting a subpoena that would force Valeant to turn over documents tied to the price hikes.

"We believe it is critical to hold drug companies to account when they engage in 'a business strategy of buying old neglected drugs and turning them into high-price 'specialty drugs,'" wrote the Dems in the letter, which sites a Wall Street Journal article that illustrates Valeant's drug price increases.

"Valeant is using precisely the same business model as Martin Shkreli, the 32-year-old former hedge fund manager whose company recently purchased the lifesaving drug Daraprim and increased the price from $13.50 to $750 per pill."
The letter goes on to explain that Valeant purchased the rights to sell Nitropress, a drug used to treat congestive heart failure and hypertensive episodes, along with Isuprel, which is used to treat heart block and abnormal heart rhythm, in February. The same day, the drug company imposed the massive price hikes on these drugs.

Big Pharma Price Hikes Could Lead To A Congressional Subpoena

When asked about the enormous increases, a Valeant spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal the company's "duty is to our shareholders" and its main purpose is "to maximize the value" of the drugs it sells.

In the letter, Sanders and Cummings have asked the committee to subpoena the requested documents and also requested that the CEO of Valeant be asked to testify next week, along with Mr. Shkreli.

"Both appear to be engaging in the same business model of acquiring potentially life-saving drugs to maximize their own corporate profits."
Although Hillary Clinton has also launched a variety of attacks on Big Pharma, including condemning the industry's recent round of price hikes, her health care strategy is much different than Sanders,' Time reported.
"Clinton has made the defense of Obamacare a key platform of her campaign, vocally supporting the Affordable Care Act and strongly criticizing Republicans for their calls to repeal it."
On the other hand, Bernie Sanders is offering voters another plan to deal with drug price hikes that supports a single-payer system similar to those that have already been adopted in Western Europe and Canada, comparing what we pay while speaking to an audience in New Hampshire on Sept. 20.
"Today, Americans pay, by far, the highest prices for prescription drugs anywhere in the world."
The presidential hopeful has made it clear that he views health care as a human right and, although he and Clinton both voted for the Affordable Care Act, Sanders thinks the legislation has made little progress so far beyond paving the first steps toward universal coverage.

Sanders and Cummings have asked the Committee to subpoena the requested documents and also requested that the CEO of Valeant be asked to testify next week, along with Mr. Shkreli.

Sanders has also introduced new legislation that would allow Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to obtain lower prices for prescription drugs, and he supports loosening some restrictions on importing drugs from Canada, where they are available for much less than in the U.S.

[Photos by Phil Walter / Joe Raedle / Scott Olson / Staff / Getty Images]