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Senate Aging Committee Holds 1st Hearing on Off-Patent Rx Drug Price Spikes

Committee examines causes, impacts, and potential solutions to dramatic price increases of off-patent drugs

Click HERE for a copy of Senator Collins’ opening statement
Click HERE for a copy of Senator McCaskill’ s opening statement

Washington, D.C.—The Senate Special Committee on Aging, led by Chairman Susan Collins and Ranking Member Claire McCaskill, held the first in a series of hearings the Committee will conduct to investigate recent instances of abrupt and dramatic price increases in prescription drugs that are no longer protected by patents. The hearing, titled Sudden Price Spikes in Off-Patent Drugs: Perspectives from the Front Lines, began the Committee’s bipartisan examination of this issue.
     “Prescription drugs are vital to the health and well-being of all Americans, especially our nation’s seniors, 90 percent of whom take at least one prescription drug in any given month,” said Senator Collins. “For many decades, federal policy has sought to strike the right balance between maintaining the incentives needed to promote innovation and the development of new drugs and keeping medicines affordable.  That balance we have struck never anticipated companies acquiring off-patent drugs and then jacking up their prices to enormous heights, and doing so, as one executive essentially put it, ‘because I can.’  In some instances, these price increases have negatively affected patients’ and doctors’ access to off-patent drugs.  One goal of our bipartisan investigation is to understand why such companies can impose egregious price increases on off-patent drugs they have acquired and what policies we should consider to counter this disturbing practice.”
      “There’s a line at which huge price increases on prescription drugs go from rewarding innovation to price gouging,” said Senator McCaskill. “In particular, when these price hikes occur without any therapeutic changes or improvements to the drug, it raises troubling questions about whether companies are taking advantage of the patients who depend on their products for survival.”
      This year alone, Americans are expected to spend more than $328 billion on prescription drugs.  Of this amount, individuals will pay about $50 billion out-of-pocket.  The federal government will pick up another $110 billion in payments through Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans Affairs, and other programs.

      Witnesses for the hearing included: Dr. Erin Fox, Director, Drug Information Service, University of Utah Health Care and Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Utah College of Pharmacy, Dept. of Pharmacotherapy;  Dr. David Kimberlin, Professor and Vice Chair for Clinical and Translational Research and Co-Director, Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Department of Pediatrics, University of Alabama at Birmingham; Dr. Gerard Anderson, Professor, Health Policy and Management, Medicine, and International Health, Johns Hopkins University; and Mr. Mark Merritt, President & Chief Executive Officer, Pharmaceutical Care Management Association.

Click HERE for a copy Dr. Erin Fox’s testimony
Click HERE for a copy of Dr. David Kimberlin’s testimony
Click HERE for a copy of Dr. Gerard Anderson’s testimony
Click HERE for a copy of Mr. Mark Merritt’s testimony