[Ip-health] The Hill: Dems pressure Obama to fight price-gouging by drug companies

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Tue Jan 12 06:30:54 PST 2016


Dems pressure Obama to fight price-gouging by drug companies

By Sarah Ferris - 01/11/16 05:32 PM EST

More than 50 Democratic lawmakers are calling on the White House to take
stronger action against companies accused of price-gouging prescription
drugs, suggesting that officials could be doing more with their existing

The lawmakers wrote to the heads of the Department of Health and Human
Services (HHS) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on Monday,
suggesting that they should consider lifting the exclusive rights awarded
to drug companies if they are unfairly pricing their products.

The new pressure on the White House, which was quickly endorsed by the
liberal Center for American Progress, comes one day before the president’s
final State of the Union address.

The rising cost of prescription drugs has become a top issue in the
presidential election, with candidates from both parties promising to
tackle it if elected.

The letter, led by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas,), acknowledges that the
government has certain powers — known as march-in rights — over patented
products like medicines when there are public health or safety concerns.

They stop short of asking the government to use that power, while urging
the White House to make clear when it might use those rights.

As part of a 1980 law, the administration can intervene in a situation
involving a patented product when “action is necessary to alleviate health
and safety needs which are not being reasonably satisfied.”

The Democrats argue that the recent price-gouging controversy — in which
the cost of certain drugs has been jacked up 5,000 percent overnight by a
new owner — could warrant the use of that power.

In short, too many drugs are not “available to the public on reasonable
terms,” they write.

The heads of those companies, such as the now-infamous Martin Shrekli of
Turing Pharmaceuticals, have faced enormous public pushback over their
strategies, though no illegal activity has been reported.

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