UPDATE 2-Senate panel focuses on toll of Valeant, Turing drug price spikes

Wed Dec 9, 2015 5:45pm EST
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(Adds Collins statement on CEOs, comment from Turing)

By Sarah N. Lynch and Bill Berkrot

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK 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 heart patients after the cost skyrocketed from $440 to $2,700 a vial.

These are two of the stories a U.S. Senate panel heard on Wednesday at a hearing to explore why certain off-patent prescription medicines sold by companies like Valeant Pharmaceuticals and Turing Pharmaceuticals have shot up after they acquired the rights to the drugs.

The committee also mentioned dramatic price hikes by Rodelis Therapeutics and Retrophin Inc.

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

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

Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, the panel's ranking Democrat, said there is a difference between rewarding innovation and price gouging, noting that the older drugs in question were not developed by the companies selling them.   Continued...