- Democrats on the influential House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday launched a new task force meant to scrutinize the biopharma industry's pricing practices.
- The new group, dubbed the "Affordable Drug Pricing Task Force," plans to investigate companies like Valeant, Turing Pharma, and others that apply exorbitant hikes to older drugs.
- During a press conference announcing the task force, ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) reiterated his call to the committee's chair, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), to issue subpoenas to Turing and Valeant CEOs Martin Shkreli and Michael Pearson regarding their drug price hikes for Daraprim and two heart drugs, respectively.
- A U.S. Senate panel on Wednesday also launched a probe (on a bipartisan basis) into the companies' pricing practices and requested documents from the two firms, as well as from Retrophin Inc and Rodelis Therapeutics.
Cummings has had pharmaceutical pricing habits in his crosshairs for a while, and now that the Shkreli/Turing and Valeant situations have sucked up all the media oxygen, he and House Democrats are sensing blood in the water and trying to keep the issue in the spotlight.
There is, of course, a fair amount of politics to this as well. Chaffetz has said that he does plan on holding hearings regarding drug prices, but has yet to announce a time or produce a witness list. Cummings and other committee Democrats have responded by saying that Chaffetz should either immediately force Pearson and Shkreli to testify and turn over documents or allow Democrats to act on their own and hold votes on issuing subpoenas.
"I believe this [price gouging] unconscionable, and frankly, it’s inexplicable," said Cummings during the press conference. "Patients, hospitals, and healthcare providers in ALL of our districts are affected by this price gouging."
Of the Senate's probe into four drug makers, Special Committee on Aging Chair Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said, "The sudden, aggressive price hikes for a variety of drugs used widely for decades affect patients and health care providers and the overall cost of health care."