UPDATE 4-U.S. Senate panel probing Valeant, Turing over drug costs

Wed Nov 4, 2015 4:14pm EST
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* Senate panel seeks information from four drugmakers on pricing

* Valeant shares fall 6 pct, Retrophin shares tumble 14 pct (Adds drug pricing task force, government panel formed)

By Caroline Humer and Sarah N. Lynch

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON, Nov 4 (Reuters) - A U.S. Senate panel on Wednesday launched a bipartisan probe into pharmaceutical pricing, seeking documents from four drugmakers including Valeant Pharmaceuticals and Turing Pharmaceuticals, companies embroiled in controversy over price hikes on lifesaving drugs.

The move followed a series of criticisms by lawmakers over eye-popping drug price increases, especially by companies with recently acquired generic drugs. Drug companies have said those hikes have brought the medicines in-line with their market value and also reflect costs of acquisition and development of new treatments.

The Senate's Special Committee on Aging also requested information from Retrophin Inc and Rodelis Therapeutics, according to a statement from the panel's Republican Chairwoman Susan Collins and Claire McCaskill, its top Democrat.

Valeant and Retrophin shares fell on the announcement but the wider U.S. biotech sector held steady. Healthcare experts have said it would take a much broader bipartisan push to introduce laws that would limit what drugmakers could charge for their medicines.

Also on Wednesday, Democratic members of a U.S. House of Representatives investigative committee asked Republicans to call a vote to subpoena Valeant and Turing.

These Democratic leaders called for an investigation of drug prices in September, emboldened by press reports of a more than 5000 percent overnight increase in a toxoplasmosis drug made by Turing and a more than 600 percent increase in a blood pressure treatment from Valeant.   Continued...