GENERICS: Stark Asks For Antitrust Probe
Reps. Pete Stark (D-Hayward) and Marion Berry (D-AR) are asking two federal regulatory agencies "to open anti-trust investigations" into a generic drug manufacturer that is "raising the wholesale cost" of some of its generic drugs, the Newark Star-Ledger reports. The lawmakers asked the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission to see if Pittsburgh-based Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc. has violated "various trade laws" by instituting "extraordinary" price increases in the past few weeks. Mylan maintains that "the increases were the result of a recent analysis showing 41 of the company's 97 drugs are losing money" and that the company had to raise prices "on seven of them rather than halt production."
According to Mylan spokesperson Pat Sunseri, the FTC contacted her company regarding its price increases, but there was no mention of an anti-trust probe. "As far as I know, they were checking to see about the price increases and everything seemed okay. We've already answered all their questions. There's nothing shady about this," she said. But the price increases are not sitting well with pharmacists who worry that "reimbursement from government programs and insurers won't reflect the changes." National Community Pharmacists Association General Counsel John Rector said, "These price increases are radical in nature. Any time you see increases like that, you know something is out of line."
The Star-Ledger reports that other generic drugmakers followed Mylan's lead in raising prices for their products. The manufacturers "have attributed the price hikes to a pause in the recent consolidation among wholesalers and drugstore chains, a development that, for more than two years, prompted huge price drops necessary to retain market share." The generic makers also say the cost of bulk chemicals is rising and some chemicals are becoming more difficult to obtain. The Star-Ledger reports that the call for a probe into Mylan price hikes comes "amidst unsubstantiated rumors ... that Mylan has attempted to corner the market on bulk chemicals," a rumor Mylan denied. Rep. Berry today "is expected to circulate a 'Dear Colleague' letter to other members of Congress, urging them to call for further investigation into generic-drug prices, which he described as 'a growing problem'" (Silverman, 3/5).