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    Hearing ups pressure on drugmakers’ prices

    When the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform met on January 26, legislators took a closer look at price hikes from companies such as Valeant Pharmaceuticals and Turing Pharmaceuticals.

    Related: Drugmakers debate pricing, legislation

    Former Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli previously was unapologetic about the 5,000% price increase for the toxoplasmosis drug Daraprim. Valeant Pharmaceuticals was also criticized for increasing prices on the heart drugs Isuprel and Nitropress 536.7%  and 236.6%, respectively, after buying the products.

    However, Howard Schiller, interim CEO of Valeant, is looking forward to testifying, a Valeant spokeswoman told Reuters, and the company is cooperating with the investigation.

    Earlier this month, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz asked Valeant and Turing asking for documents that showed revenues for Daraprim, Isuprel and Nitropress and any communications from the CEOs about the drugs. They gave the companies until January 22 to submit the requested documents.

    The hearing is just the latest move by politicians to put pressure on drugmakers over high prices. A group of 50 members of Congress and two organizations sent letters to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), asking the NIH to use its "march-in rights" to bypass patents on pricey branded drugs developed with federal funding, according to FiercePharma.

    Related: Pricing report blasts asthma drug cost

    Although the NIH has said that it would take "extraordinary" circumstances for it to open such drugs to early generic competition, the recent surge in drug prices fits the bill, the lawmakers and nonprofits said in their notes, according to FiercePharma.

    In addition, a new study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California, Berkeley found that drugmakers hold off on raising drug prices amid political pressure, according to The New York Times.

    For example, pharmaceutical stock prices fell as much as 50% when Hillary Clinton's "Health Care Task Force" was considering new drug price regulation. And more than 20 drug manufacturers promised to keep drug price increases at or below inflation after Clinton made the announcement.

     

    Christine Blank, Contributing Editor
    Contributing Editor Christine Blank is a freelance writer based in Florida.

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