ACHP Media Report: Pharmacy News – October 21, 2016

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Lawmakers inquire about Ariad Pharmaceuticals’ pricing practices
Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) have sent a letter to Ariad Pharmaceuticals requesting information about continued price increases for the leukemia drug Iclusig. This year, Ariad has increased Iclusig’s price by 27 percent, making its list price more than $16,000 a month before discounts and rebates. The company has also restricted patient choices by discontinuing its 60-day supply of medication and charging the same for its 30-day supply. Ed Silverman from STAT News writes Sanders and Cummings are requesting many data points from Ariad, including research and development costs and marketing and manufacturing costs, as well as an explanation for discontinued doses and information on which executives authorized the price increases.

Doctors Without Borders takes stand against drug prices
Doctors Without Borders, an international humanitarian medical aid organization, has turned down a donation of one million vaccines from Pfizer that treat a fatal form of pneumonia common in children. In the last year, this vaccine has generated more than $6 billion in revenue, profits Doctors Without Borders note are partly due to inflated drug prices. The organization asserts accepting the donation would justify these increases. While the donated vaccines would benefit Doctors Without Borders, James Hamblin with The Atlantic explains the organization would rather Pfizer price the drug fairly so it could be accessible for all. 

Pfizer biosimilar coming to market
Pfizer has announced its drug Inflectra, a biosimilar for Johnson & Johnson’s drug Remicade, will be available in November. Remicade is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, colitis and other immune disorders at an average price of more than $2,000 per month without insurance. Inflectra will treat the same conditions and cost 15 percent less than Remicade’s list price. Linda Johnson of the Associated Press has the story.

Senator disagrees with Mylan settlement
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) believes the Department of Justice (DOJ) should not accept Mylan Pharmaceutical’s $465 million settlement in response to the misclassification of its EpiPen as a generic drug. The settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing by Mylan, and Blumenthal asserts the company may have overcharged Medicaid by close to $700 million. Peter Sullivan of The Hill reports Blumenthal’s letter to the DOJ urges the agency to continue the investigation.

Trump outlines opioid plan
At a recent campaign rally in New Hampshire, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump outlined his strategy for addressing the opioid epidemic in the United States. Trump’s plan includes increasing the minimum mandatory prison sentence for drug offenders, stopping the flow of heroin from Mexico and increasing access to medication-assisted treatment. In addition, Trump proposes expanding incentives for states to use drug courts and mandated treatment, increasing the supply of naloxone for first responders and ending Medicaid policies impeding inpatient treatment. Steven Johnson from Modern Healthcare explains critics believe Trump is focusing on the drug supply instead of what is creating the demand.

Political leaders request restrictions on fentanyl chemicals
In a letter to the United Nations Secretary General, Secretary of State John Kerry has requested the two ingredients used to make fentanyl be added to the list of controlled substances. A group of 15 senators signed a letter with the same request. Political leaders believe restricting access to the ingredients will help slow the illicit manufacturing of fentanyl and related opioid overdoses. According to Jeanne Whalen of The Wall Street Journal, Secretary Kerry requested the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs make a decision by its next meeting in March 2017 (subscriber’s content).

Valeant Pharmaceuticals proposes “modest” price increases
Valeant Pharmaceuticals has announced it will raise the prices for neurology, gastrointestinal and urology drugs between 2 and 9 percent. The company has committed to a pricing strategy with increases not exceeding single digits. Critics argue Valeant is relying on income from past price spikes. Sy Mukherjee from Fortune shares these modest percentages are on top of significant price increases in the last year.