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Valeant Hires Attorney and Crisis Management Firm as Lawmakers Eye Drug Prices

Steep price hikes for old drugs attract federal scrutiny

Under pressure from Congress and prosecutors over its drug-pricing practices, Valeant Pharmaceuticals has hired an attorney in Washington, D.C., and crisis public relations experts, according to a Reuters report.

In recent months the company has attracted scrutiny over steep price hikes on some of its drugs, potentially anticompetitive behavior in its contact lens business, and close ties to a specialty pharmacy with aggressive billing practices, Reuters says.

Valeant hired an attorney to help respond to congressional inquiries, including an investigation led by an oversight committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Senate Special Committee on Aging last week kicked off the first of a series of hearings to investigate rising costs in off-patent drugs, with a focus on two heart medications manufactured by Valeant.

The committee is reviewing steep price hikes for Valeant’s isoproterenol (Isuprel) and nitroprusside (Nitropress), as well as for Turing Pharmaceutical’s pyrimethamine (Daraprim), which is used to treat toxoplasmosis, a serious disease that affects patients with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and pregnant women and their babies.

Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, the committee’s ranking Democrat, said there is a difference between rewarding innovation and price gouging, noting that the older drugs in question were not developed by the companies selling them. She said Senate research found that “dramatic price hikes are seemingly business as usual for Valeant.”

Last week’s hearing featured medical professionals who testified about the impact of price increases on important older generic medications.

Erin Fox, a director at University of Utah Health Care, said the hospital is struggling to cope with Valeant’s price hikes for their two heart medications.

“If we continued to purchase the same amount of each drug, it would cost our organization just over $1.6 million more for isoproterenol and approximately $290,000 more for nitroprusside compared to what we paid the previous year,” Fox testified.

Sources: Reuters; December 13, 2015; and Reuters; December 9, 2015.

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