Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, led the investigation into drug price increases as chairwoman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

After a yearlong investigation into rising drug prices, the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging has released a report that seeks to provide solutions to a tough conundrum: Legislators don’t want the government to intervene in pharmaceutical pricing, but they do want to prevent pharma companies from buying old drugs and then reaping huge profits from them by charging outrageous prices. The report lays out a variety of strategies, many of which center around incentivizing generic drugmakers to produce their own versions of old but essential medicines, in order to prevent monopolies that drive up prices.

Boosting competition is also central to a separate effort by a group of Senators who are urging incoming President Donald Trump to work with Congress to put a lid on drug prices.

“The answer is to figure out how we can revitalize the market so that generic drug producers have incentives to compete with companies that are buying up drugs and jacking up prices to make quick, exorbitant profits,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), chair of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, in an interview with the New York Times.

The Committee on Aging’s investigation centered on four companies accused of said jack-ups, including two founded by the now notorious “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli: Turing Pharmaceuticals, which raised the price of Daraprim to treat toxoplasmosis, and Retrophin, seller of a specialty kidney drug called Thiola. Also included were Rodelis Therapeutics, which briefly held the rights to market Seromycin to treat tuberculosis, and Valeant Pharmaceuticals, which has been assailed for it’s pricing of drugs to treat the inherited disorder Wilson’s disease.

All four received letters last November from Collins and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) requesting documents about the drugs. The two were particularly concerned about Valeant’s Isuprel and Nitropress, which saw price hikes of 525% and 212% respectively. Valeant’s CEO spoke at a hearing in April and admitted the price hikes were “too aggressive.”

Shkreli, who is fighting unrelated fraud allegations and is no longer involved with Retrophin or Turing, invoked his fifth amendment rights at one Congressional hearing early this year and did not appear at subsequent hearings. In March, interim Turing CEO Ronald Tilles said during a Senate hearing that virtually no patients pay the full price of Daraprim. In a statement issued in response to the Senate report, the company said “Turing has taken numerous steps to ensure access to Daraprim for every patient that needs it.”

A spokesperson for Retrophin told Fierce that the Committee on Aging acknowledges in the new report that the company has abandoned Shkreli’s business model and “has made significant investments to improve support for patients who use Thiola.”

The Senate report suggests encouraging generic competition by passing the Increasing Competition in Pharmaceuticals Act, introduced by Collins and McCaskill, which is designed to speed up the FDA review process for generic drugs. It also proposes that the government award vouchers for some of those products that would guarantee priority review by the FDA. Furthermore, the committee says, the Senate should pass another bill that would allow generic drugmakers to “commence expedited legislation” so they can obtain the samples of the branded drug that they would need to apply for approval for a generic version.

In a press release, Collins and McCaskill likened the pricing practices of the four companies they investigated to a “hedge fund model,” which McCaskill called “predatory, and immoral for the patients and taxpayers who ultimately foot the bill—especially for generic drugs that can be made for pennies per dose. We’ve got to find ways to increase competition for medicines and ensure that patients and their families aren’t being gouged.”

The report comes just a day after 20 Senators sent a letter to Trump asking him to take certain steps to help Congress rein in drug prices. The letter, spearheaded by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Al Franken (D-MN) suggests allowing Health and Human Services to negotiate Medicare drug prices, forcing drug companies to be more transparent about how they set prices, and taking steps to boost competition. “The American public is fed up, with roughly 8-in-10 Americans reporting that drug prices are unreasonable, and that we must take action to lower costs,” they said in the letter. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a frequent critic of the drug industry, was among the co-signers.

Just how Trump will respond to all of these pleas remains to be seen. Initially investors perceived him to be the business-friendly pick who wouldn’t interfere in drug pricing practices. But then, earlier this month, he vowed to Time magazine “I’m going to bring down drug prices.”

11 COMMENTS

  1. Human Rights. It’s called HUMAN rights. No one should ever be denied a life saving drug due to it’s inherit price gouging. It’s bad enough most seniors would rather work, walk without pain, do the simple things in life without the restrictions of growing older. To allow ‘privileged’ people to be able to dictate to those of us who aren’t so well off is tantamount to injury and even murder. I don’t think most of these Pharmies ever thought of taking away a life saving drug could be deduced as murder but I don’t see it any other way. If you really want to help quit making the price of a pill twice what it took to make it. I don’t begrudge anyone from making a profit but pure stealing from a sick human is unacceptable.

  2. My heartfelt thanks go out to Sen. Collins+ Sen. McCaskill for finally pinning this issue down + calling attention to something that has been putting people, especially the elderly, into such debt that we can barely survive under the enormous burden these costs have put on us. If you remain vigilant, my hope is that for once and for all we won’t have to skip our monthly prescriptions due to the rising costs. This is criminal and finally we see a light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you both so very much.

  3. This should have happened years ago before the greed of a few companies that seen loopholes to raise prices that are obviously for high profits

  4. Obviously she, unlike most politicians. Doesn’t have money invested, in the drug manufacturers.
    But, be careful, Ms. Senator.
    We’ve seen numerous drug manufactured, go belly up, because of government interference.
    Typically, a drug needs to remain on the market, for almost five years, before the company receives a profit.
    Research and development in big pharma, is astronomical. Along with FDA guidelines.
    Furthermore. It is not the governments job, to pick winners and losers. Like they did, with GM.
    If you want fierce competition? Get the heck, out of the way.

  5. While I find the prices of many prescription drugs outrageous, let’s start with one of the biggest problems contributing to high prescription costs in the United States. Let’s abolish the Food and Drug Administration (aka FDA).

  6. I applaud that one senator is bringing up an issue that affects millions.There’s just no accounting for greed at the detriment of human lives.These uncaring people must realize one day you’re going to need these drugs.Hopefully you’ll be able to afford them to help you stay alive.That’s senator Collins for your effort.

  7. FDA is in desperate need of an overhaul! The administrative costs of running the Agency far outweigh the regulatory and science conducted.

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