An investigation by the US House Energy and Commerce Committee that began in January 2012 continues to escalate, with members of the committee directly targeting pharmaceutical companies in an attempt to discover what went on between the Obama administration and the pharmaceutical industry during negotiations on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010, reports Bloomberg.
Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee oversee the healthcare sector, including matters related to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the pharmaceutical industry. As Regulatory Focus reported on 26 January, the Committee had requested the Obama administration turn over internal memoranda related to those negotiations, which the White House refused.
Bloomberg notes the committee took a similar tactic with an industry trade group-most likely the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA)-which also rebuffed the committee's requests for information.
Now the committee is going after the individual companies that make up the industry-and PhRMA-including Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Merck, Abbott Laboratories and Amgen.
"The Republicans last month began negotiating directly with the companies in e-mails, calls and meetings demanding documents and information outlining what the industry agreed to with President Barack Obama in 2009 and 2010, when the law was being worked on in Congress."
At least two companies, Pfizer and AstraZeneca, said they were cooperating with the probe, but had no further statement for Bloomberg.
The committee is reportedly seeking details of emails and meetings between the companies and the administration, but its demands so far lack the use of subpoenas or formal letters that would compel the companies to cooperate, notes Bloomberg.
The entire episode could prove embarrassing for drug companies, industry groups, the Obama administration and a potentially widening cast of characters, explained Bloomberg.
"Along with drugmakers, the committee has asked questions of about 10 other groups, including doctors and hospitals."
"There's no upside here" for drug companies, noted Alec Vachon, PhD, President of Hamilton PPB. "Any time you disclose documents, you have no idea what rocks you're going to turn over."
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