Government Starts Investigating Drug Prices

The House Oversight Committee announced on Monday that it will begin a long-overdue investigation into the pricing methods of 12 pharmaceutical companies. The investigation will be one of the most extensive in decades, one that people struggling to afford their insulin have been begging for.

The House Oversight Committee is an investigative committee within the House of Representatives, currently led by Representative Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who has pledged to make the cost of prescription drugs one of his top priorities.

“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 said in a statement. He wants to determine why prices are skyrocketing, how drug companies are using their profits, and how prices can be reduced to alleviate the burden on Americans.

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The committee is investigating the following pharmaceutical companies: AbbVie, Amgen, AstraZeneca, Celgene, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Mallinckrodt, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, Sanofi, and Teva Pharmaceuticals. Representative Cummings sent letters to those companies asking for documents and information regarding their pricing practices.

In response to CNBC’s request for comment, an Eli Lilly spokesperson said the company “is committed to ensuring everyone living with diabetes has reasonable access to insulin, and we appreciate Congressional interest in this topic.”

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Prescription drug prices are currently a main focus of House democrats. Three bills designed to lower drug prices were introduced since the democrats took control of the house in January, including bills designed to support generic drug manufacturers.

In December 2018, the FDA released a press release emphasizing the importance of generic insulins and promising changes to help generic drug companies get more options to the market. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb promised the administration would create an abbreviated pathway to approval for generics and address the “gaming” of the system by pharmaceutical giants that frustrate the efforts of generic companies.

Pharmaceutical companies argue that rising prices are due to middlemen and the nation’s rebate system.

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Representative Cummings is one of many lawmakers fed up with the high price of insulin. There have been a growing number of protests about insulin prices, some prompted by the deaths of people rationing their insulin because of insurmountable price tags.

Frustration is mounting, and it’s reached Capitol Hill. Americans hope their frustration will soon lead to real changes at the pharmacy.

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