Why has the cost of some drugs skyrocketed? That's the question the Joint Economic Committee explored at a hearing yesterday in which some specialty pharma companies were skewered for raising prices dramatically after buying meds from larger drugmakers.
Among those cited were Ovation Pharmaceuticals, whose ceo, Jeff Aronin, is a PhRMA board member. In her opening remarks, US Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, indicated she asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Ovation for allegedly exploiting a lack of competition to one of its products. Another company cited was Questcor Pharmaceuticals.
"When we have pharmaceutical companies like Ovation or Questcor increasing prices to astronomical levels because of the lack of competition in the market, their actions are able to exploit an extremely vulnerable and captive market," she said. "These staggeringly high prices, in turn, threaten the financial stability of middle class families relying on these drugs."
Alan Goldbloom, ceo of Minnesota Children's Hospital, testified that Ovation's Indocin is an example. The drug is used to treat patent ductus arteriosus, or PDA, a condition that can interfere with breathing in newborn and premature babies. Until January 2006, the drug cost about $108 per unit. A few months earlier, though, Ovation bought the med from Merck, gaining exclusive rights, and the price jumped to $1,500 – a 1,278 percent increase.
"Indocin is not the only drug Ovation has marked up in such a dramatic fashion," he continued. "Three other drugs that were purchased from Merck – Cosmegen, Diuril Sodium, and Mustargen have seen price increases of 3,437 percent, 864 percent, and 979 percent, respectively. Cosmegen is an agent used to treat a variety of pediatric cancers, Diuril Sodium is a diuretic used to reduce fluid overload in infants and neonates, and mustargen is used to treat brain tumors and certain lymphomas."