What's behind the huge price jump for some generic drugs?

By:  David Lazarus

Why are the prices of some generic drugs so darn high?

That's a question many consumers have been asking lately. And now, a pair of prominent congressmen are demanding an answer from the drug industry.

In letters to 14 pharmaceutical companies, the congressmen said they're investigating "the recent staggering price increases for generic drugs used to treat everything from common medical conditions to life-threatening illnesses."

The letters were sent by Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging.

They cited the example of the asthma drug albuterol sulfate. The average cost for a bottle of 100 pills was $11 last October, the pair said. The average charge by this April was up to $434.

The antibiotic doxycycline hyclate cost $20 last October for a bottle of 500 tablets, the congressmen observed. By April, the price was $1,849.

The letters to the drug companies seek information about operational and production costs. They don't suggest any impropriety on the companies' part.

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