Statement from Margarida Jorge, campaign director for Lower Drug Prices Now, on the House hearings on drug pricing with Big Pharma CEOs and executives:
“Drug corporations continue to raise drug prices to pad their profits, putting medicine out of reach for millions — even in the middle of a global pandemic that has claimed millions of people’s jobs, health care and over 200,000 American lives. In just the last six months alone, Big Pharma companies raised the prices of more than 850 drugs. The price of prescription drugs is increasing faster than any other medical good or service. Despite empty promises from President Trump and Republicans to lower prices, this Administration has done nothing to rein in Big Pharma’s monopoly control to charge patients ever higher prices for the medications they desperately need.
Americans are tired of political speeches, empty rhetoric and election time gimmicks from Republicans and Big Pharma executives–we need long overdue reforms that increase transparency, accountability and affordability for patients. Americans also know they can’t trust Big Pharma to put public health ahead of inflated profits, even now as COVID continues to surge. That’s why Democrats in the House and Senate, including Senator Harris, introduced the Make Medications Affordable by Preventing Pandemic Price-gouging (MMAPPP) Act to protect patients against price gouging for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments developed with taxpayer money. Congress should take up this legislation immediately and ensure that Americans can afford the medicines we need to get out of the pandemic.”
Background — Price gouging by Bristol Meyers Squib, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Amgen, Mallinckrodt, and Novartis:
Bristol Meyers Squib/Celgene:
- Paid $1.6 million to the State of West Virginia to settle allegations it, along with Sanofi, had deceptively marketed the blood thinner Plavix. The companies falsely claimed Plavix was superior to aspirin. Plavix has a much higher price than aspirin which is widely available in generic, over the counter forms.
- Paid $515 million to settle lawsuits brought by multiple states and the Federal government alleging widespread drug pricing fraud. The company paid kickbacks and bribes to increase the use of its products, inflated the price paid by state Medicaid programs and Medicare as well as other violations including promoting off label use of its products.
- Paid $27.6 million to the State of Pennsylvania after it allegedly falsely reported wholesale drug prices, resulting in state health care programs paying higher costs.
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries:
- In 2016 it, along with Mylan and several smaller companies, was accused by 20 State Attorneys General of conspiring to fix the price of a generic antibiotic and a diabetes drug. From October 2013 to April 2014, the average price of 500 pills for the antibiotic, doxycycline hyclate, went from $20 to $1,849.
- In 2019, in a separate complaint, Teva was accused of “orchestrating” a scam with 19 other companies to inflate generic drug prices. Forty-four State Attorneys General sued the companies alleging they had avoided competition and conspired to either keep prices from falling or raise them for 86 medications. Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak said, “The level of corporate greed alleged in this multi state lawsuit is heartless and unconscionable.”
- Amgen was forced to cut the price of its cholesterol drug, Prevatha, after its high cost meant patients couldn’t afford the medication and insurance plans restricted access. It ultimately cut prices by 60%, from $14,000 to $5,850 per year.
- Amgen was criticized for raising prices to compensate for falling sales of an old rheumatoid arthritis drug, Enbrel. Sales fell by 2% in the first quarter of 2015, while revenues from the drug rose by 19%.
- In 2013, Amgen settled litigation brought by 36 State Attorneys General for inflating prices on 6 prescription drugs, causing state Medicaid programs to overpay. Amgen settled for $11 million. This was one part of litigation alleging the company had violated multiple other laws including “(..) illegal marketing practices, which included promoting the drugs for unapproved uses, and illegal kickbacks schemes.” In total Amgen paid at least $647 million.
- Mallinckrodt subsidiary SpecGX was one of 3 companies that sold the majority of the 76 billion generic opioid pills distributed nationally between 2006-2012. In 2017, Mallinckrodt paid $35 million to settle complaints from the Drug Enforcement Agency that it had failed to detect suspicious orders. In 2020, Mallinckrodt paid a further $1.6 billion to settle lawsuits by State Attorneys General.
- Mallinckrodt raised the price of Acthar, a drug used to treat spasms in infants, from $40 per vial in 2001 to more than $34,000 per vial in 2017, an 85,000% increase, after acquiring the rights to the drug and its only competitor in the U.S. The company was sued by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and five State Attorneys General for antitrust violations and settled for $100 million. Within 2 years of Mallinckrodt obtaining a monopoly, Acthar became one of the biggest drug-related expenses for Medicare.
- In 2019, Novartis paid $21.2 million to the State of Illinois to settle allegations it had falsely inflated wholesale drug prices to increase the prices it charged the state’s Medicaid program.
- In 2015, Novartis paid $83 million to state authorities for paying kickbacks to pharmacies to push customers to refill the company’s drug Exjade. This was part of a larger $390 million settlement with the states and the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) paying kickbacks for recommending two of its drugs.
- In 2020, subsidiary Sandoz entered into a deferred prosecution agreement and paid $195 million to settle felony charges it had conspired to allocate customers, rig bids, and fix prices for multiple generic drugs.