Politics, Pricing

Cummings triggers probe into pricing practices of dozen major drugmakers

An investigation into drug price gouging by the prolific chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform Elijah Cummings kicked off on Monday with inquiries sent to a dozen major drugmakers seeking information on pricing practices, days after a legislative package aimed at curbing skyrocketing prescription drug prices was unveiled.

Rep. Elijah Cummings

The probe is designed to unpack the rationale behind dramatic drug price hikes, how the proceeds from drug sales are being used by manufacturers and what can be done to cut prices.

“Research and development efforts on groundbreaking medications have made immeasurable contributions to the health of Americans… But the ongoing escalation of prices by drug companies is unsustainable,” Cummings said in a statement.

Letters were sent to 12 drugmakers — AbbVie $ABBV, Amgen $AMGN, AstraZeneca $AZN, Celgene $CELG, Lilly $LLY, J&J $JNJ, Mallinckrodt $MNK, Novartis $NVS, Novo Nordisk $NVO, Pfizer $PFE, Sanofi $SNY and Teva $TEVA regarding various drugs they sell — seeking information on price hikes, investments in R&D, and strategies employed by the manufacturers to preserve market share. The letters are focused on drugs that are among the costliest to Medicare Part D, among the most expensive per beneficiary, or had the largest price increases over a five-year period. According to a report by the non-profit American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), which represents 40 million Americans, between 2006 and 2017 the prices of 267 commonly used prescription drugs rose by an average 8.4% each year, far outstripping the general inflation rate of 2.1% over the period.

The first public hearing on the subject is scheduled for January 29.

Data show that despite the higher cost of healthcare borne by the United States, the region actually performs worse across various health measures versus a number of other high-income nations. According to a recent Politico/Harvard poll, an overwhelming majority of Americans ranked addressing the cost of medicines as a top priority for the new Congress.

The Trump administration has proposed steps to curb prices, and various lawmakers have also made it a cornerstone  issue, including Senator Chuck Grassley, the new chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and presidential hopeful Senator Elizabeth Warren.


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Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
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