US House Oversight Committee launches investigation into prescription drug pricing

The US House of Representatives' Oversight Committee on Monday announced a probe into a dozen pharmaceutical companies regarding drug pricing. In the investigation, Representative and committee chairman Elijah Cummings sent letters to AbbVie, Amgen, AstraZeneca, Celgene, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Mallinckrodt, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, Sanofi and Teva to provide detailed information and documents regarding their pricing practices. 

"For years, drug companies have been aggressively increasing prices on existing drugs and setting higher launch prices for new drugs while recording windfall profits," Cummings stated, adding "the goals of this investigation are to determine why drug companies are increasing prices so dramatically, how drug companies are using the proceeds, and what steps can be taken to reduce prescription drug prices."  

According to the Oversight Committee, the letters are specifically seeking information and communications about price increases, R&D investments and corporate strategies to maintain market share and pricing power. The committee said that the letters focused on drugs that are "the costliest to Medicare Part D, among the costliest per beneficiary, or had the largest price increases over a five-year period." The targeted therapies include, among others, AbbVie's Humira (adalimumab), AstraZeneca's Crestor (rosuvastatin), Eli Lilly's Humalog (insulin lispro), Novartis' Gleevec (imatinib) and Pfizer's Nexium (esomeprazole). 

The committee explained that the letters represent an initial step in its comprehensive review of pricing practices, adding that meetings will be held in the coming weeks with testimony from experts as well as patients affected by increasing drug prices.   

The news comes after Cummings and other Democratic lawmakers introduced three bills earlier this month aiming to reduce drug prices. Similarly, in October, US President Donald Trump unveiled a proposal that would tie the prices paid by Medicare Part B to an international price index.  

In addition, sources recently disclosed that Trump, who released a blueprint last year targeting drug prices, planned to meet with top advisors in response to price hikes at the start of the year. 

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