- Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. and House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., are investigating three generic drugmakers for "apparent coordinated obstruction" of a Congressional drug pricing probe in 2014.
- The lawmakers sent letters to Mylan, Teva and Heritage Pharmaceuticals saying the three companies never responded to a document request that year and accusing them of trying to stonewall the probe. The two are now renewing the inquiries made in 2014.
- "This information is critical to our investigation, and necessary to develop and pursue legislative policies that address anti-competitive behavior in the generic pharmaceutical industry," the lawmakers wrote.
The new probe is one more headache for a generic industry already suffering from political scrutiny, pricing pressure, and declining share prices.
Cummings and Sanders are ramping up their attacks after revelations in a May complaint filed by the attorneys general of 44 states, who allege widespread price fixing took place in the generic drug industry. Officials in Connecticut found an email the lawmakers say shows a coordinated attempt to obstruct their investigation.
In the email, outside counsel for Heritage wrote that the consensus among the three companies would be to respond to Sanders and Cummings' requests with "'polite f-u' letters," according to a legal filing by the states.
Mylan denied that it tried to stonewall the 2014 inquiry, noting in a statement to BioPharma Dive that it's "provided extensive documentation to investigating authorities" in connection with "related ongoing investigations."
Sanders and Cummings' letter to Mylan notes that company "never produced any documents" despite "repeated inquiries and discussions with Mylan's counsel." Letters to Teva and Heritage indicated the same.
Mylan also said it's also thoroughly investigated the allegations in the complaint filed by the states.
"We have not found any evidence to corroborate the allegations," Mylan said. "We are prepared to make our case in a court of law and are confident that the civil case against Mylan and its employees is meritless."
Officials at Teva didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.
In a statement to BioPharma Dive, Heritage said it previously responded to the prior Congressional inquiry on two separate occasions, but didn't indicate what information it submitted.
"The new Heritage leadership team intends to continue the Company's full cooperation with the Congressional inquiries," the company said.
Back in May, Heritage entered a settlement with the Justice Department in which it admitted conspiring to fix prices, agreed to pay a $225,000 fine and said it would fully cooperate with investigators.
Cummings and Sanders originally launched their 2014 probe amid skyrocketing prices for generic drugs and suggestions that the drugmakers were coordinating to fix markets for them. The price for one product, doxycycline hyclate, rose as much as 8,281% between Oct. 2013 and April 2014, Cummings and Sanders said. Others saw increases ranging between 300% and 700%.
"Heritage, Mylan, and Teva executives allegedly played a central role in this scheme," they said in an Aug. 14 news release.
For Sanders, the issue also makes good politics. The presidential hopeful has often targeted drugmakers for high prices and today continued his assault on the generics companies via Twitter.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified who wrote the email highlighted by Sen. Sanders and Rep. Cummings.