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Drastic price hikes spur policy investigations
Valeant Pharmaceuticals’ decision to raise the prices on a handful of drugs it has acquired over the past few years has led federal lawmakers and the Department of Justice to demand that the company explain its pricing policy.
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In October, Valeant acknowledged receiving subpoenas from federal prosecutors in New York and Massachusetts seeking information on its pricing, distribution and patient assistance policies.
The Department of Justice’s request followed a similar appeal in September by the 18 democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform who have asked committee chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) to subpoena Valeant to turn over documents explaining the price hikes and have its CEO Michael Pearson testify before the committee.
Earlier in September, the company refused to comply with a request by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to explain why it raised the price of two heart medica tions by several hundred percent immediately after acquiring the rights to them in April.
Valeant has said the requested information is “highly proprietary and confidential.”
Critics contended that Valeant is taking advantage of the fact that most of its drugs do not have generic equivalents and are among the few options available to patients. Since July 2014, the price of Valeant’s blood-clotting drug Mephyton has been increased eight times, and now costs about $58.76 a tablet, up from $9.37. The price of another Valeant drug, the diuretic Edecrin, has gone up nine times since May 2014, rising from about $470 per vial to $4,600 a vial. This summer it increased the price of Cuprimine — a drug used to treat Wilson disease, an inherited disorder that can cause severe liver and nerve damage — to $260 a tablet, more than four times what it cost previously. While no generic equivalent of the drug is available in the United States, generic Cuprimine sells in pharmacies outside the United States for about $1 per pill.