Congressmen Want Info About MS Drug Price Hikes, but Why?
MS drug manufacturers in the sights of two members of Congress
The companies are Bayer, Biogen, EMD Serono, Novartis, Sanofi Genzyme, Teva, and Roche.
U.S. Reps. Elijah Cummings and Peter Welch, two Democrats who sit on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, are concerned about what they’re calling dramatic price increases for some MS drugs produced by those companies. In a news release, the congressmen say the price hikes have come “without warning, cause, or justification.”
They’ve sent letters to the companies seeking information about their profits and expenses. The letters also ask for documents about pricing strategies, patient assistance programs, and drug distribution systems.
Is this ‘shadow pricing?’
Cummings and Welch point to an American Academy of Neurology study of drug prices as evidence that some pharmaceutical companies appear to be increasing the prices of their older, less expensive drugs to bring those prices in line with those of the newer, more expensive DMTs that are available today. This kind of practice is known as “shadow pricing.”
The congressmen refer to this study as being a bit dated, as it was published in May of 2015. It reviews the published prices of nine DMTs over a 20-year period, ending in 2013, and shows that prices for those older, first-generation DMTs increased at an annual rate that was five to seven times higher than general prescription drug inflation.
What prompted this investigation?
I applaud the effort of these congressmen to try to hold the line on MS drug prices. I suspect, however, that little will come of this information request, other than to provide some publicity for Cummings and Welch, and to make the pharmaceutical companies aware that their price hikes haven’t gone unnoticed.
But I have to wonder what prompted the pair to focus on MS drugs. It’s no surprise that there are also some very high prices being charged for new drugs that are being used to treat other diseases. Why single out MS drugs?
Call me a skeptic, but could it be that this happened because a woman named Donna Edwards revealed a few weeks ago that she has MS? Edwards is a former member of Congress, and she worked closely with Cummings on Capitol Hill. Both represented congressional districts in Maryland. Did Cummings’ former colleague encourage him to take this action? I’m glad that he did, but I can’t help being curious about his motivation.
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