U.S. investigative panel to look into drug pricing next year

Mon Nov 16, 2015 8:11pm EST
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By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. House of Representatives investigative panel said it plans to hold a 2016 hearing on skyrocketing drug costs, a move that comes at a time when Valeant Pharmaceuticals International is facing increased scrutiny into its pricing practices.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform said on Monday the panel is conducting a thorough investigation into drug pricing and has reached out to drug companies to gather information.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging launched a new probe into drug pricing at Valeant (VRX.TO: Quote) (VRX.N: Quote) and Turing, signaling growing bipartisan agreement on the need to review the rising cost of prescription drugs in the United States.

Democratic members have pressed House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz, a Republican, for months to invite Valeant Chief Executive J. Michael Pearson to testify at a hearing over his company's massive price increases of two heart medicines.

The top Democrat on the investigative panel, Elijah Cummings, had previously urged the panel to subpoena Valeant. On Monday, Cummings also sent a letter to Pearson requesting interviews with a handful of Valeant executives who were directly involved in the operations of specialty pharmacy Philidor Rx Services.

According to a letter seen by Reuters, Cummings asked Pearson to make employees Gary Tanner, Bijal Patel and Alison Pritchett available for "transcribed" interviews.

"Troubling new allegations suggest that a group of Valeant employees helped launch Philidor's business in 2013 and have remained involved in its daily operations," Cummings wrote.

"These allegations suggest that Valeant employees may have been personally involved in questionable billing practices that led Valeant to cut ties with Philidor last month."   Continued...

The headquarters of Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., seen in Laval, Quebec November 9 2015.   REUTERS/Christinne Muschi