House Democrats to Investigate Drug Prices
Health Care

House Democrats to Investigate Drug Prices

REUTERS/George Frey

A key House investigative committee announced Monday that it was launching a wide-ranging investigation into the pricing practices of 12 major pharmaceutical companies, including Amgen, Eli Lilly, Johnson and Johnson, Novartis and Pfizer.

“For years, drug companies have been aggressively increasing prices on existing drugs and setting higher launch prices for new drugs while recording windfall profits,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, said in a statement.  “The goals of this investigation are to determine why drug companies are increasing prices so dramatically, how drug companies are using the proceeds, and what steps can be taken to reduce prescription drug prices.”

Cummings sent letters to the drugmakers requesting information on how the companies operate, including “information and communications on price increases, investments in research and development, and corporate strategies to preserve market share and pricing power.” The letters specifically cited 19 widely-prescribed drugs, including Humira, Enbrel, Crestor, Victoza and Lantus. After gathering the initial responses, the oversight committee plans to hold hearings within the next several weeks.

Pressure is growing: Pharmaceutical companies have been under increasing pressure over pricing, at least at the level of rhetoric. President Trump complained about drug prices last week, calling Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to the White House for a meeting to address the issue. At around the same time, Azar tweeted, “For those listening in the pharmaceutical industry: The list price increases must stop. Prices must start coming down.”

But prices keep rising: The growing political pressure hasn’t produced much in terms of long-term results, however. As Bloomberg’s Michelle Cortez reported Thursday, “The pressure hasn’t yet curtailed soaring costs, as drug companies boosted U.S. list prices on hundreds of treatments in recent weeks.”