Executives from Valeant and Turing had a hard time explaining to members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee their rationales for exorbitant price hikes of older drugs in recent months. Their fuzzy explanations of pricing practices, moreover, cast a shadow over the broader pharmaceutical industry.
The central attraction was Turing former CEO Martin Shkreli, who appeared before the Committee as commanded, but smirked through repeated denials to answer questions. Unless you use your current fame to influence drug price reductions, advised Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, ranking Democrat on the panel, “you can go down in history as the poster boy for greedy drug company executives.” Shkreli was dismissed early from the hearing, with a squad of lawyers in tow, tweeting about the “imbeciles” on the panel.
Turing “chief commercial officer” Nancy Retzlaff killed off any credibility by claiming that she didn’t know how much stock Shkreli now had in Turing. Equally unpersuasive was her claim that the firm was reinvesting 60% of its profits in R&D.
Committee members offered a range of strategies for preventing and addressing extreme price hikes in prescription drugs, besides faster FDA approvals. A “poison pill” policy would allow suspension of product exclusivity on products that experience Turing-like price hikes, proposed Rep. Steven Lynch (D-Mass.), Turing and other bad actors, he said, thus are responsible for causing Congress to impose heavy regulations on good pharmaceutical companies, which could “choke off” good drugs coming through the pipeline.
Others urged greater transparency in pharma pricing on websites, and how much companies actually spend on research. And there was mention of FDA authorizing use of compounded drugs to create more competition, as done in some cases of severe drug shortages, and support for speedy development and market approval of biosimilars.