Ackman, Valeant pledge reforms after spiking drug prices

Wed Apr 27, 2016 7:48pm EDT
 
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By Sarah N. Lynch and Bill Berkrot

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Activist investor William Ackman promised U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday that he will urge the board of Valeant Pharmaceuticals (VRX.TO: Quote) to reduce the high prices of four life-saving drugs that are now at the heart of two congressional probes.

Speaking before the Senate Special Committee on Aging, Ackman revealed that Valeant's board will hold a conference call on Thursday to discuss the costs of heart medications Isuprel and Nitropress, as well as Cuprimine and Syprine, two drugs that are used to treat a genetic disorder that causes copper to build up in the body's organs.

Valeant raised the price of Isuprel by about 720 percent and Nitropress by 310 percent, after acquiring them in 2015. The other two were raised by 5,878 percent and 3,162 percent, respectively.

"My recommendation is going to be to reduce the prices," Ackman testified.

The Senate Special Committee on Aging is one of two U.S. congressional panels investigating sky-rocketing price increases of certain decades-old drugs acquired by companies including Valeant and Turing Pharmaceuticals, a company founded by Martin Shkreli.

Ackman, a major Valeant shareholder, appeared Wednesday alongside the company's outgoing Chief Executive Michael Pearson and Howard Schiller, a board member and former chief financial officer.

Ackman joined the board last month as Valeant faced mounting scrutiny by members of Congress, prosecutors and regulators over its drug pricing, business practices and accounting - issues that have caused its share price to plummet almost 90 percent since August.

Valeant has about $30 billion of debt and has been negotiating with creditors, some of whom issued notices of default after it missed a deadline for the filing of its financial results.   Continued...

 
Valeant CEO Michael Pearson is sworn in to testify about price spikes in decades-old pharmaceuticals before a hearing of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. April 27, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst