The abrupt and dramatic increase in drug prices is currently the focus of Congressional inquiry. Some of the companies under scrutiny due to drug price hikes include Turing Pharmaceuticals and Valeant Pharmaceuticals.

The Senate Special Committee on Aging will conduct a series of hearings to investigate the sudden and significant price increases in prescription drugs that are no longer protected by patents.

The special committee will start its hearing titled “Sudden Price Spikes in Off-Patent Drugs: Perspectives from the Front Line” on Wednesday, December 9.

The hearing aims to provide insight into the causes of the sudden price hikes on off-patent drugs and its impact on the patient’s access to medications. The special committee will also evaluate whether the current regulation and public policy may have contributed to the problem.

Drug Price Hikes

Experts to testify during the hearing on drug price hikes

Some of the experts invited to testify during the hearing include Dr. Gerard Anderson from Johns Hopkins University and Dr. Erin Fox from the University of Utah, Dr. David Kimberlin from University of Alabama, and Mr. Mark Merritt of Pharmaceutical Care Management Association.

The Wall Street Journal quoted Senator Claire McCaskill, a ranking member of the Special Committee on Aging, saying, “There’s a line at which these huge price increases for prescription drugs go from rewarding innovation to price gouging. This hearing will set the stage for an examination of whether that line is being crossed.”

“We’ll hear from experts about why these huge price spikes are occurring and what this looks like for patients and providers on the front lines.

Drug price hikes that attracted attention

Some of the drug price hikes that attracted the attention of the members of the committee were from Valeant Pharmaceuticals, Turing Pharmaceuticals, and Retrophin.

The Canadian pharmaceutical company significantly increased the price of Nitropress, a blood-pressure drug and Isuprel, a heart-rhythm treatment, after acquiring the rights for the medicines early this year. Valeant Pharmaceuticals increased the price of Isuprel by 525% to $1,346 and Nitropress by 212% to $805.61. The special committee requested Valeant to submit information regarding the drug price hikes.

Valeant’s spokesperson Lauri Little said the company is cooperating with the special committee, and it is providing the requested documents.

Last month, the special committee asked Retrophin to submit documents regarding its licensing rights for Thiola, a drug for kidney disease. The company increased the price of the drug from $1.50 to $30.

The special committee also asked Turing Pharmaceuticals to provide information regarding its rights to Daraprim, an antibiotic used to treat a deadly parasitic infection called toxoplasmosis.

Turing Pharmaceuticals increased the price of the drug by 5,000% from $15.50 to $750, which was described by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as “price gouging.” The company said it would take several steps to reduce the price of Daraprim.