House Democrats call for subpoena over price increases of two heart drugs

Also request for Valeant CEO to appear before the committee next week

Members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Monday called for Valeant Pharmaceuticals International to be subpoenaed for documents explaining recent dramatic price hikes for two heart drugs.

Background

The request comes after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) earlier this summer sent a letter to Valeant seeking an explanation for the price increases of two recently acquired heart drugs.

The company tripled Isuprel's price to $805.61 per 2-mililiter vial and increased Nitropress's price more than six-fold, from $215 to $1,346.62 per 1-mililiter vial.

Earlier this month, Valeant refused the request, writing that "the specific documents and information referenced in [the] letter are highly proprietary and confidential." Valeant added that the drugs had been "significantly underpriced" and that the company has programs to assist patients who cannot afford the medications.

Details of subpoena request

Cummings—ranking member of the House committee—and 17 other Democrats petitioned committee Chair Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) to subpoena Valeant for the documents the company will not voluntarily provide.

The Democrats also requested that J. Michael Pearson, CEO of Valeant, and Martin Shkreli, CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, appear before the committee in hearings next week.

From last week: After outrage over 5,000% price hike, Turing CEO says drug will be made more affordable

In the letter to Chaffetz, the committee Democrats wrote that both companies "appear to be engaging in the same model of acquiring potentially life-saving drugs to maximize their own corporate profits."

It is uncertain whether Chaffetz will issue the subpoena; he was not a signatory of the original document request sent to Valeant, Jonathan Rockoff reports for the Wall Street Journal.

The subpoena did lead to a reaction on Wall Street— Valeant's stock dropped 17% on Monday (Johnson, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 9/28; Rockoff, Wall Street Journal, 9/28; Farrell, "MoneyBeat," Wall Street Journal, 9/29).

What providers can learn from the drug pricing debate

We already knew that patients are becoming more sensitive to health care costs. But public uproar over one drug's 5,000% "overnight" price hike proves that patients are more discerning—and vocal—than ever. With more of their money on the line, patients are actively deciding when and where to access care based on cost.

We saw it coming—and we laid out concrete tactics for dealing with price sensitivity in your market. The first chapter in our study, The Consumer-Oriented Ambulatory Network, focuses on how you can retain market share by making services more affordable. Download the study to learn more.

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