Drugmakers under fire for suspected US price fixing

Two prominent US lawmakers on Thursday called on US federal antitrust regulators to probe whether Sanofi SA, Eli Lilly and Co, Merck & Co Inc and Novo Nordisk A/S colluded to set prices for insulin and other diabetes drugs.

The request by US Senator Bernie Sanders and US Representative Elijah Cummings follows a similar letter they sent in autumn last year calling for an investigation into 14 drug companies over price increases of generic drugs.

US prosecutors could file the first charges by the end of the year in their subsequent criminal investigation of generic drugmakers over suspected price collusion, Bloomberg reported on Thursday.

In their latest letter to the US Department of Justice and the US Federal Trade Commission, Sanders and Cummings raised questions about skyrocketing prices for insulin and included a chart showing that many of the price spikes appeared to occur in tandem.

They noted that the original patent on insulin, a hormone used by diabetics to control blood sugar levels, expired 75 years ago.

“Sanofi sets the prices of our treatments independently,” Sanofi spokeswoman Ashleigh Koss said in an e-mailed statement.

Novo Nordisk also said it sets prices “independently” and that it stands by its business practices.

A spokeswoman for Merck said the company does not make insulin. Merck makes other products to treat diabetes.

Eli Lilly, in an e-mail, said it strongly disagrees with the accusations in the letter.

“The insulin market in the US is highly competitive,” Eli Lilly said.

Several generic drugmakers, including Mylan, Allergan, Endo and Taro Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, had previously disclosed that they were subpoenaed in connection with the antitrust investigation.

Bloomberg said the probe spans more than a dozen companies and about two dozen drugs, citing people familiar with the matter.

Impax Laboratories Inc said earlier this year that the department had requested information on four drugs: blood pressure pill digoxin, asthma drug terbutaline sulfate, prilocaine/lidocaine cream and calcipotriene solution, which is used to treat psoriasis.

A Teva spokesman said the company “is not aware of any facts that would give rise to an exposure to the company with respect to these subpoenas.”

Sat, Nov 05, 2016


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