The House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a series of hearings to review findings from an in-depth investigation into drug pricing actions that was conducted last year with CEOs representing some of the largest and most profitable pharmaceutical manufacturers.
As stated in the summary report of the investigation by Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, “the drug companies are bringing in tens of billions of dollars in revenues, making astronomical profits, and rewarding their executives with lavish compensation packages—all without any apparent limit on what they can charge.”
Of the numerous findings issued, some of the most concerning are those highlighting aggressive pricing actions taken on life-saving treatments such as Revlimid, an oral treatment for Multiple Myeloma and related disorders manufactured by Celgene. In the committee report, the congressional investigators found that since the launch of the drug Revlimid in 2005, the price has been increased “22 times, from $215 per pill to $719 per pill,” raising the “average monthly course to $16,023—more than triple the 2005 price.” Due to these price increases, from 2009 to 2018, Revlimid generated over $51 billion in net worldwide revenue, net U.S. revenue increased from $1 billion to nearly $6.5 billion, and corporate profits benefitted directly, growing from $790 million to $4 billion.
Revlimid is just one example of the many drugs treating conditions that have been identified in in this investigation. This rapid escalation in pricing of essential pharmaceuticals is clearly contributing to healthcare expenses being the #1 cause of bankruptcy in the US. It’s not a stretch to imagine these patients battling cancer and other chronic diseases asking themselves “can I afford my medication?” or having to choose between medication costs and other expenses.
In the pharmaceutical industry, we have a responsibility to make critical treatments affordable and to ask ourselves “how much profit is enough?