Medical professionals to discuss toll of Valeant, Turing drug price spikes

Wed Dec 9, 2015 2:30pm EST
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By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON Dec 9 (Reuters) - A pediatric doctor in Alabama had to scramble to find a less expensive supply of a lifesaving drug to treat an infant who was suffering from a parasitic infection.

In Utah, a hospital has been forced to change the way it stocks a drug critical to treating patients with heart conditions after the cost sky-rocketed from $440 to $2,700 a vial.

These are just two of the stories that a U.S. Senate panel will hear on Wednesday at a hearing that will explore why certain off-patent prescriptions made by companies like Valeant Pharmaceuticals and Turing Pharmaceuticals have shot up after they acquired the rights to sell the drugs.

The U.S. Senate's Special Committee on Aging announced last month it was launching an investigation into drug pricing and the role that mergers and acquisitions may be playing in price hikes.

The committee is reviewing price increases for Valeant's two heart drugs Isuprel and Nitropress, as well as Turing's price increase on Daraprim, a drug used to treat a disease called toxoplasmosis that affects AIDS patients and pregnant women.

Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, the panel's ranking Democrat, said in prepared remarks that she wants to make sure companies are not taking advantage of the system by seeking "deep profits while contributing little or nothing to advances in medical treatment."

Drug pricing has come under wider scrutiny in the last few months, not only from U.S. lawmakers, but also from U.S. prosecutors and Democratic presidential candidates.

Valeant is facing probes from U.S. prosecutors over prices, distribution and prescription assistance programs, while Turing is under investigation by the New York state attorney general for antitrust concerns. The increased scrutiny over high U.S. drug prices has also taken a toll on the industry's stocks.   Continued...