Cummings Wants Responses From Turing, Valeant Ahead of Hearing

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By Nathaniel Weixel

Nov. 18 — The top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee told Bloomberg BNA Nov. 18 he's pleased that Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) is willing to hold a hearing on drug pricing, but drug companies Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. and Turing Pharmaceuticals are refusing his requests for information.

“We have not gotten very much cooperation from the companies,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said in an interview. “Basically, they are obstructing our investigation. We have asked the chairman to do what we've done in the committee so many times—if someone does not want to cooperate with the investigation, you subpoena them and you subpoena their records.”

Cummings has been investigating Valeant and Turing Pharmaceuticals AG for acquiring older drugs and then significantly raising their prices. He has been trying to get Chaffetz to subpoena Valeant and Turing to compel them to hand over information on price increases. Earlier this week, an Oversight Committee spokeswoman said the committee will hold a hearing early in 2016.

“A hearing is a good start,” Cummings said. “But I anticipate it's going to go on for a while. As much as I want the hearing and I'm glad we're getting a hearing, I do not want the hearing to be the end all.”

MJ Henshaw, the committee spokeswoman, told Bloomberg BNA Nov. 18 that subpoenas are considered a last resort. “We like to make sure we're exhausting all our options. This investigation is no different,” Henshaw said.

Henshaw said the committee hasn't been overlooking the drug pricing issue. Republicans have been speaking with “a number of interested companies” and stakeholders, but “at this point, we don't feel [subpoenas are] necessary,” she said.

Senate Investigation

Cummings said he hopes the House panel will work with, and share information with, the bipartisan Senate Special Committee on Aging investigation into pricing issues of Valeant, Turing and two other companies. That panel will hold a hearing in December.

The Senate investigation will review recent price increases in off-patent drugs that have been acquired by the four companies. The panel also will look into the Food and Drug Administration's process for approving new generic drugs, as well as the recent spate of pharmaceutical mergers and acquisitions.

Cummings said he believes in companies making a fair profit, but wants transparency into how and why Valeant and Turing have hiked prices for their drugs.

“We need more information to see how they are doing what they’re doing with regard to jacking up these prices. I look forward to hearing what they have to say,” Cummings said.

Cummings also reiterated a request he made in a Nov. 16 letter to investigate Valeant's relationship with a mail-order pharmacy. Workers at the pharmacy, Philidor Rx Services, sometimes changed codes on doctors’ prescriptions to ensure they were filled with the branded version instead of the generic, according to the former employees. Philidor said it only filled prescriptions with medications that doctors and patients requested, but Valeant has said it’s cutting ties with the pharmacy.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nathaniel Weixel in Washington at nweixel@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Janey Cohen at jcohen@bna.com