Senator calls for FTC to investigate drugmakers for antitrust violations Posted 06/11/2015

In light of recent drug price increases a US Senator has called on the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate pharmaceutical companies for possible antitrust violations.

The call comes after Turing Pharmaceuticals (Turing) increased the price of its newly acquired 62-year-old infectious disease drug Daraprim (pyrimethamine) from US$13.50 a tablet to US$750 – a 5,000% price hike. Although the company did make a bit of a u-turn on the price after coming under sharp criticism of its action by patients, medical groups and US democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Daraprim is used to treat toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection that is particularly dangerous for people who have weakened immune systems, like AIDS and cancer patients, as well as pregnant women. 

US Senator Amy Klobuchar has asked the FTC to investigate pharmaceutical companies, such as Turing, for possible antitrust violations, as it is thought that Turing and other pharmaceutical companies could be restricting drug distribution in a manner that violates the antitrust laws established in the Federal Trade Commission Act.

Senator Klobuchar writes that ‘some companies may be combining a substantial price increase for a prescription medication with a closed distribution system’. She adds that ‘if the restricted distribution prevents or delays generic [drug] competition, it could subject consumers to unnecessarily high prescription drug prices’.

The news follows Hilary Clinton’s proposal for a US$250 monthly cap on out-of-pocket prescription drug costs and other measures to stop what she called ‘price gouging’ by pharmaceutical companies.

Increases in generics prices have also been under increased scrutiny after Senators Sanders and Cummings pointed to ‘staggering price increases’ in the range of 390–8,200% across 10 products and asked 14 generics makers to submit detailed information on the reasons for this [1]. This action also resulted in the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to initiate an investigation, which will cover prices for the top 200 generics between 2005 and 2014 to determine the extent to which they exceed inflation [2].

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References
 1.   GaBI Online - Generics and Biosimilars Initiative. Investigation into huge price increases for generics in the US [www.gabionline.net]. Mol, Belgium: Pro Pharma Communications International; [cited 2015 Nov 6]. Available from: www.gabionline.net/Generics/General/Investigation-into-huge-price-increases-for-generics-in-the-US
2.   GaBI Online - Generics and Biosimilars Initiative. Soaring generics prices come under increased scrutiny [www.gabionline.net]. Mol, Belgium: Pro Pharma Communications International; [cited 2015 Nov 6]. Available from: www.gabionline.net/Generics/General/Soaring-generics-prices-come-under-increased-scrutiny

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Source: Klobuchar

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