Ahead of a hearing on drug prices set for 29 January, House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-MD) sent letters on Monday to 12 manufacturers seeking information on pricing practices, R&D investments, market share strategies and pricing power.
The companies involved include some of the largest pharmaceutical manufacturers in the world, including AbbVie, Amgen, AstraZeneca, Celgene, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Mallinckrodt, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, Sanofi and Teva. But the companies are not testifying at the January hearing, as Cummings said the committee will first hear from experts, as well as patients affected by rising drug prices.
“In today’s letters, Cummings is focusing on drugs that are among the costliest to Medicare Part D, among the costliest per beneficiary, or had the largest price increases over a five-year period,” the committee said.
The letters focus on a host of drugs that have yet to face generic or biosimilar competition in the US, including Humira (adalimumab), Lyrica (pregabalin) and Revlimid (lenalidomide).
The government is projected to spend $99 billion on Medicare Part D in 2019. In 2016, the 20 most expensive drugs to Medicare Part D accounted for roughly $37.7 billion in spending.
“These price increases are negatively affecting patients, including those on Medicare. The percentage of Medicare Part D beneficiaries who paid at least $2,000 out-of-pocket
for their drugs nearly doubled from 2011 to 2015,” the committee added.
The focus on drug prices comes as Democrats and Republicans in both the House and the Senate introduced legislation last week.
Last Wednesday, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced
a bill, dubbed the Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act of 2019, that would allow for Americans to import drugs from Canada. They also introduced a bill
that would target pay-for-delay
arrangements between drugmakers and generic companies and said they will reintroduce the Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples (CREATES) Act
to reduce barriers generic manufacturers face in accessing samples.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar also took aim at high drug prices, warning drugmakers that the Trump administration will take action.
"I want to be really clear to the pharma companies out there and to the pharmacy benefit managers. The President and I will not stop until list prices of drugs come down. This behavior has to stop, drug prices must come down and we will roll out more regulatory and legislative proposals and we will work with Democrats and Republicans to get drug prices down," Azar said on Fox Business.