US seeks information from 14 companies over generic drug price increases

Two members of the US Congress have written to 14 pharmaceutical companies, including Actavis, Mylan and Teva, seeking "information about the escalating prices they have been charging for generic drugs." Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, remarked "when you see how much the prices of these drugs have increased just over the past year, it’s staggering, and we want to know why."

The letters cited data from the Healthcare Supply Chain Association on recent purchases of 10 generic drugs by group purchasing organisations over the past two years. The data showed, for example, that the price of albuterol sulfate, which is used to treat asthma and other lung conditions, increased 4014 percent, while the cost of the antibiotic doxycycline jumped 8281 percent. In addition, the price of glycopyrrolate, which is used to prevent arrhythmia during surgery, increased 2728 percent.

Senator Bernard Sanders commented "it is unacceptable that Americans pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs." Sanders, who is chairman of the Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, added "generic drugs were meant to help make medications affordable for the millions of Americans who rely on prescriptions to manage their health needs. We’ve got to get to the bottom of these enormous price increases."

The congressmen asked the companies, which also include Apotex, Dr. Reddy's Laboratories, Endo International and Sun Pharmaceutical, to provide information from 2012 to the present, including total gross revenues from sales of the drugs, prices paid for the medicines, factors that contributed to decisions to increase prices and the identity of company officials responsible for setting the prices. Other companies contacted include Global Pharmaceuticals, Heritage Pharmaceuticals, Lannett, Marathon Pharmaceuticals, Par Pharmaceutical, West-Ward Pharmaceutical and Zydus Pharmaceuticals.

Commenting on the matter, a spokesperson for Dr. Reddy's said "the company is in the process of responding to the notice and is confident of addressing these queries successfully," adding that the drugmaker "did not initiate any price increasing activity for the products mentioned in the notice." For related analysis, see Spotlight On: Can political inquiry stem rising generic drug prices? Not based on recent precedent.

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