Law­mak­ers demand an­swers on leukemia drug price hikes

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

Two top law­mak­ers on Thurs­day de­manded in­for­ma­tion from a drug com­pany that has raised prices on a leukemia drug, call­ing in­creases of tens of thou­sands of dol­lars a sign the com­pany puts prof­its be­fore pa­tients.

Sen Bernie San­ders, I-Vt, and Rep. Eli­jah Cum­mings, D-Md, the top Demo­crat on the House Over­sight and Govern­ment Re­form Com­mit­tee, wrote ARIAD Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and asked about price hikes for Iclusig, which is used to treat chronic myeloid leukemia in some peo­ple. The com­pany raised the cost of the drug four times in 2016 to an al­most $200,000 yearly cost, an in­crease of more than $80,000 over the last sev­eral years. “These out­ra­geous sales tac­tics in­di­cate that ARIAD is more con­cerned with its profit than with its pa­tients,” San­ders and Cum­mings wrote.

San­ders also tweeted about the com­pany last week: “Drug cor­po­ra­tions’ greed is un­be­liev­able. Ariad has raised the price of a leukemia drug to al­most $199,000 a year.” Ac­cord­ing to data from Tru­ven Health An­a­lyt­ics, the list price for a year’s sup­ply of Iclusig tablets has in­creased from $114,960 in 2012 to $198,732 in Oc­to­ber 2016. San­ders and Cum­mings also said they are in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether the com­pany tried to boost prof­its by tweak­ing pill dosages and quan­ti­ties to charge in­sur­ers and pa­tients more for less medicine.

The FDA ap­proved Iclusig in 2012 as a treat­ment for two rare types of leukemia, but the com­pany sus­pended sales the next Oc­to­ber be­cause of height­ened con­cerns that pa­tients could suf­fer from life-threat­en­ing blood clots. In De­cem­ber 2013, it re-launched with added warn­ings and to a smaller sub­set of pa­tients. The in­quiry comes as other phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies have come un­der fire from Congress for price hikes. Martin Shkreli, the brash for­mer CEO of Tur­ing Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, be­came the poster child of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal-in­dus­try greed last fall for hik­ing the price of a life-sav­ing drug, Dara­prim, by more than 5,000 per­cent. He in­voked his Fifth Amend­ment rights and re­fused to an­swer any ques­tions at a House hear­ing ear­lier this year. In Septem­ber, a House panel grilled My­lan CEO Heather Bresch af­ter the list price of the com­pany’s life-sav­ing EpiPens grew to $608 for a twopack, an in­crease of more than 500 per­cent since 2007. My­lan is pay­ing $465 mil­lion to set­tle al­le­ga­tions that it over­billed Med­i­caid for the EpiPen. The set­tle­ment with the Jus­tice De­part­ment fol­lowed the news that EpiPen has been in­cor­rectly clas­si­fied since late 1997 as a generic prod­uct un­der the Med­i­caid health pro­gram for the poor and dis­abled.

— AP

WASHINGTON: In this Sept 10, 2015 file photo, Sen Bernie San­ders, I-Vt, left, and Rep Eli­jah Cum­mings, D-Md, leave a news con­fer­ence on Capi­tol Hill.

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