WASHINGTON, June 13 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, wrote to Attorney General William Barr to urge him to investigate 20 generic drug manufacturers for allegedly engaging in an unprecedented, multi-billion-dollar price-fixing conspiracy in violation of federal antitrust law.
"It is sick and disgraceful that generic pharmaceutical executives, who should be making medicines affordable for the American people, were instead busy coordinating a cover-up scheme to hide the truth about their price-fixing conspiracy when we asked about their skyrocketing prices," Sanders said. "In my view, their ‘polite f-u’ letters designed to obstruct our investigation were clearly illegal. The Department of Justice must hold these bad actors accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
"I am deeply troubled by the allegations that Teva and its peers conspired to inflate the prices of lifesaving generic drugs, and that they obstructed our investigation in the process," said Cummings. "We cannot stand for this type of harm to the public or this interference with Congress’ oversight responsibilities. We will take all appropriate actions to ensure that generic manufacturers are held accountable for misconduct.”
A civil lawsuit filed last month by a coalition of 44 state attorneys general against 20 generic drug manufacturers and more than a dozen executives followed Sanders’ and Cummings’ original 2014 investigation into 14 generic drug companies’ suspicious price increases. The attorneys general alleged that these companies and individuals participated in a massive scheme to defraud the American people, engaging in a coordinated effort to artificially inflate prices for more than 100 generic drugs and destroy evidence of criminal conduct.
“Civil enforcement will not be sufficient to protect consumers,” wrote Sanders and Cummings. “We write to urge the Department of Justice to prioritize criminal enforcement of federal antitrust laws against generic drug manufacturers.” They emphasized that, “vigorous antitrust enforcement is vital to ensuring that millions of Americans can afford the medications they need.”
Sanders and Cummings also called on the Department of Justice to open an investigation into whether Teva Pharmaceuticals and its co-conspirators unlawfully obstructed their 2014 investigation.
In response to the 2014 investigation, generic drugmakers cited the costs of regulatory compliance, drug shortages, and user fees—explanations that were “at best, grossly misleading, and at worst, intentional lies to Congress,” wrote Sanders and Cummings.
The state attorneys general have uncovered evidence that these companies coordinated with each other to obstruct the 2014 investigation. An unredacted copy of the states’ complaint, released to the media, reveals the below email suggesting coordination between Mylan, Teva, and Heritage:
“Executives deleted text messages, coordinated their responses, and lied to our offices in order to conceal a massive conspiracy to fix prices for generic drugs, raising them by as much as 1,000 percent,” the Members said in response.
Read the letter here.
Watch Senator Sanders and Conneticut Attorney General William Tong discussing the issue here.