Senate committee to scrutinize sharp increase in pharmaceutical drug pricing | St. Louis Public Radio

Senate committee to scrutinize sharp increase in pharmaceutical drug pricing

Nov 4, 2015

When Turning Pharmaceuticals acquired the drug Daraprim, used for decades to treat and prevent infections, it boosted the price from $13.50 to $700 a tablet. That caught the attention of medical professionals and lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Now, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., says the Senate Special Committee on Aging will investigate this and other similar price increases that followed recent acquisitions.

In a conference call with reporters Wednesday morning McCaskill said nothing appeared to justify the steep jump in prices. “These are not drugs where additional research was necessary or there was additional cost associated with marketing this drug, merely changing hands of the company resulted in these exorbitant price increases,” McCaskill added. “We’re talking about increases in price that range from 5,000 percent to 625 percent, with the only thing that has occurred is changing the label that is put on the drug.”

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McCaskill, the ranking Democrat on the committee, and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who chairs the committee, have sent letters to a handful of companies requesting their “cooperation with this investigation so that the committee may better understand drug pricing and related regulatory and public policy concerns.”

A statement from McCaskill’s office says that while seniors account for 13 percent of the population, they account for 34 percent of all prescription medication used. More than 40 percent of seniors take five or more prescription drugs a day.

The statement also says that In addition to examining “dramatic increases” in so-called off-patent drug prices, the committee will look at the Food and Drug Administration’s role in the drug approval process for “generic drugs, the agency’s distribution protocols, and, if necessary , its off-label regulatory regime.”

The New York Times reports that Turing officials met Tuesday with critics in Washington and promised to lower the price of Daraprim by the end of the year. The company did not say how much it would lower the price, according to the newspaper.

McCaskill’s committee plans to hold its first hearing early next month, with more hearings in the following weeks as needed.