U.S. Sen. Susan Collins released a report examining drug price hikes with fellow Sen. Claire McCaskill Wednesday, sparked by a national outcry after Turing Pharmaceuticals last year was accused of boosting the price of a life-saving drug by more than 5,000 percent.
The 131-page report released by Collins, chair of the Senate Aging Committee and McCaskill, it's ranking member, charged that several drug companies "engaged in price gouging ... to make massive profits from decades-old life-saving therapies," The Associated Press reported.
According to a statement from Collins' office, the investigation targeted Turing Pharmaceuticals' Retrophin, Inc.; Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc.; and Rodelis Therapeutics. The statement claimed that other drug companies have employed a "monopoly business model," which threatens the health of Americans.
"Through close examination of the monopoly business model used by four pharmaceutical companies to exploit market failures, the report examines how companies acquired decades-old, off-patent, and previously affordable drugs and then raised the prices suddenly and astronomically at the expense of patients," said a statement released by Collins' office about the report.
"The report provides case studies of the four companies; explores the influence of investors; assesses the impacts of price hikes on patients, payers, providers, hospitals, and the government; and discusses potential policy responses," the statement continued.
Collins said, according to Maine Public Radio, that some of the companies acted more like hedge funds than drug makers, placing a premium on maximizing profits. The Maine Republican said she thinks Congress should take action but did not want the body to get into the business of actually setting prices, Maine Public Radio noted.
Suggestions from the report, according to Collins' office statement, included passage of the "Increasing Competition in Pharmaceuticals Act," encouraging generic drug competition, and providing price relief for major price increases for off-patent drugs.
Other suggestions included taking steps to prevent the misuse of patient assistance programs and copay coupons; greater enforcement action on drug company mergers, operations, and drug market dynamics; and improving health care system transparency.
"Prescription drugs are vital to the health and well-being of all Americans, especially our nation's seniors, 90 percent of whom take at least one prescription drug in any given month," Collins said in a news release about the "Increasing Competition in Pharmaceuticals Act," which she introduced in March with McCaskill.
"By making it easier for generic pharmaceutical manufacturers to enter the market and compete to reduce prices, our legislation would create a strong disincentive for companies to acquire prescription drugs that are no longer protected by patents and arbitrarily and aggressively increase the cost," she added.
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