WASHINGTON — The House Oversight Committee on Monday announced an investigation into 12 pharmaceutical companies and their drug-pricing methods, billing it as one of the broadest inquiries in decades into how drug manufacturers set prices.
It is the fulfillment of a pledge from Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the committee chairman, who has said he will make high prescription drug costs a top priority in his oversight agenda. One of the committee’s first hearings, set for Jan. 29, will focus on the same topic.
“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. “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.”
Seven drug companies received requests for information about a single drug: AstraZeneca, Teva, Celgene (CELGZ), Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, and Mallinckrodt (MNK). Amgen (AMGN), Pfizer (PFE), and Novo Nordisk (NVO) received information requests regarding two of their drugs. Sanofi (SNY) and AbbVie (ABBV) each received requests for information regarding three. (AbbVie also plays a role in marketing Imbruvica, the Johnson & Johnson lymphoma drug under scrutiny.)
Many of the drugs included are among the most-cited examples of alleged price-gouging — including Revlimid, Celgene’s multiple myeloma drug, and Humira, an arthritis medicine manufactured by AbbVie.
Cummings is also joining the chorus of lawmakers questioning the high price of insulin. Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi, which collectively control 90 percent of the insulin market, are all facing questions from Cummings over their insulin products.
While committee staff did not release the full letters to each drug company, Cummings’s statement said the requests would seek information about price increases, research investments, and “corporate strategies to preserve market share and pricing power.”
Cummings’s announcement is the latest sign that drug pricing will be a marquee issue on Capitol Hill. Numerous Democrats — many of whom are eyeing runs for president in 2020 — have introduced legislation aimed at lowering drug costs in recent weeks.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the new chair of the Senate Finance Committee, has also identified drug prices as a priority and has signed onto several bipartisan bills on topics ranging from drug importation from Canada to ensuring generic drug manufacturers can access samples of brand-name drugs for testing purposes.
Nicholas Florko contributed reporting.