Is Valeant Pharmaceuticals stonewalling Congress? The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has made yet another request to the beleaguered drug maker for documents about its decision to dramatically raise prices for a pair of heart medicines right after buying them in early 2015.
In a letter sent today to the drug maker, the committee maintained Valeant has repeatedly declined to provide a list of documents requested two months ago as part of its investigation into Valeant pricing. This is the same committee that held a recent hearing into drug pricing at which Martin Shkreli declined to answer questions while smirking.
The committee wants to know more about the rights to a pair of life-saving heart drugs — Nitropress and Isuprel — that Valeant purchased and, on the same day, raised list prices by 525 percent and 212 percent, respectively. The move was part of an ongoing strategy that, initially, made the company into a Wall Street darling, but then turned Valeant into a poster child for high prescription drug prices.
Since then, Valeant has come under intense scrutiny for its pricing, especially after a short seller accused the company of improperly using a specialty pharmacy to manipulate insurance reimbursements. That episode triggered a special board review and an ongoing lack of investor confidence.
The committee, meanwhile, first asked Valeant for documentation about the purchase of the heart drugs this past January. Valeant responded last month by providing some documents, but declining to give the committee still other materials covered by attorney-client privilege.
The next day, the committee asked Valeant to provide information about the withheld documents, including the number of documents involved. The committee then received an email from a Valeant attorney who did not offer specific answers, according to a letter sent today to the drug maker.
So, the committee asked again last week, but wrote in its letter that a reply was not received.
For its part, Valeant released a statement attributed to Robert Kelner, a lawyer at Covington & Burling, who said the company has cooperated “from the beginning” and “we are surprised and puzzled by the committee’s statement, given that we have produced more than 78,000 pages of documents.”
He went on say that “as is standard procedure for any company responding to a congressional investigation and engaged in litigation, we have declined to produce documents covered by the attorney-client privilege.” But he added that a log is being prepared detailing the withheld documents.
This is not the first time that Valeant has given lawmakers the impression they were being stiff-armed.
Last October, US Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) sent a letter to Valeant to complain the drug maker failed to fully respond to her own request for information about the pricing for the heart drugs. She described the incomplete reply as “deeply disappointing.”