Drug company that raised life-saving pill’s price by 5,000% is under Senate investigation

© Regis Duvignau
The Senate’s Special Committee on Aging wants to know more about how four drug manufacturers came to raise prices of their products. One of the companies, Turing Pharmaceutical, hiked the price of a rare pill by 5,000 percent.

Led by Chairwoman Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), the panel sent letters to Turing Pharmaceuticals, as well as Valeant Pharmaceuticals, Retrophin Inc, and Rodelis Therapeutics.

“The sudden, aggressive price hikes for a variety of drugs used widely for decades affect patients and health care providers and the overall cost of health care,” Collins said in a statement.

Also on Wednesday, House Democrats from the investigative committee asked their Republican counterparts to hold a vote on whether to sue Valeant and Turing.

Turing made a big splash in the news in September when it raised the cost of a toxoplasmosis drug by 5000 percent. The price of the anti-infective medication known as Daraprim, which is used to treat AIDS and cancer patients, went from $13.50 per pill to $750 in one fell swoop.

Meanwhile, Valeant upped its blood pressure treatment’s price over 600 percent in February. They say higher profits lead to better access for patients and progress in creating newer, better medical care.

The companies’ stock prices haven’t been going up though. Retrophin’s stock tumbled 14 percent while Valeant lost 2 percent after the government investigations were announced.

The Senate panel’s letter to Valeant Chief Executive Mike Pearson mentions several cases of price hikes for drugs that concerned them. The high blood pressure drug Nitropress’ price shot up 625 percent to $1,346.62 per vial. Isuprel, a heart medicine, went up 820 percent, costing $36,811 for 25 pills. Cuprimine, a rheumatoid arthritis capsule, jumped 2,949 percent in price to $26,189 for 100.

“The cost of development and acquisition and complexities in the health care cost reimbursement system,” goes into the cost of the medication, Valeant spokeswoman Laurie Little emailed Reuters.

Retrophin’s kidney disease drug, Thiola, which went from $1.50 to $30 a tablet, is the subject of another Senate panel letter. The investigative committee wants to know more about what it takes to manufacture the drug and what’s in it, to see if the price change was justified.