Congress Investigating Why Generic Drug Prices Are Skyrocketing

BURLINGTON, Vt., Oct. 2 – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) today launched an investigation into soaring generic drug prices.

“We are conducting an investigation into the recent staggering price increases for generic drugs used to treat everything from common medical conditions to life-threatening illnesses,” Sanders, chairman of a Senate health care subcommittee, and Cummings, ranking member of the House oversight committee, wrote in letters to 14 pharmaceutical companies.

They pointed, for example, to the price hike for Albuterol Sulfate used to treat asthma and other lung conditions. The average cost for a bottle of 100 pills was $11 last October. The average charge by this April had shot up to $434. An antibiotic, Doxycycline Hyclate, cost $20 last October for a bottle of 500 tablets. By April, the price was $1,849.

The price data on those and other generic drugs came from the private Washington, D.C.-based Healthcare Supply Chain Association. It surveyed average prices paid by organizations that help hospitals, nursing homes and home health agencies negotiate with pharmaceutical companies and other vendors for discounts. The figures are akin to wholesale prices, not the amount patients are charged.

Cummings and Sanders cited a survey that found pharmacists across the country “have seen huge upswings in generic drug prices that are hurting patients” and having a “very significant” impact on pharmacists’ ability to continue serving patients. The study for the National Community Pharmacists Association also found some patients refused to fill needed prescriptions because of rising prices.

“It is unacceptable that Americans pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. Generic drugs were meant to help make medications affordable for the millions of Americans who rely on prescriptions to manage their health needs. We’ve got to get to the bottom of these enormous price increases,” Sanders said.

“When you see how much the prices of these drugs have increased just over the past year, it’s staggering, and we want to know why,” said Cummings. “I am very pleased that Chairman Sanders has joined me in this bicameral investigation because in some cases these outrageous price hikes are preventing patients from getting the drugs they need.”

To read a fact sheet, click here.

To read the letters, click the links below: