Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) threaten Cigna Corp.’s Express Scripts with a subpoena after they say the pharmacy benefit manager failed to comply with an investigation of rising insulin costs. Meanwhile, lawmakers seek answers on how unofficial advisers may have influenced President Donald Trump’s decision to endorse a risky antidepressant for veterans.
Stat: Senators Threaten To Subpoena Express Scripts For Insulin Documents
The ranking members of the Senate Finance Committee are threatening to issue a subpoena to Express Scripts, one of the largest pharmacy benefit managers in the U.S., for failing to produce documents that were requested nearly a year ago concerning the price of insulin. In a pointed letter sent on Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) blasted the company over its failure to “even attempt to answer many of the questions” that were posed in a previous letter sent last April. At the time, the committee had begun investigating rising drug prices with a particular focus on insulin, and several PBM executives had just testified at a hearing. (Silverman, 2/26)
Bloomberg: Cigna Has Failed To Comply With Insulin-Cost Probe, Senators Say
The leaders of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare and Medicaid, said the letter served as a final notice for the company to provide the requested documents. Failure to comply by March 10 would result in a subpoena, Grassley and Wyden said. “Cigna’s unwillingness to provide the documents we requested fits an industry-wide pattern of fighting efforts to shed light on PBMs’ practices,” Grassley and Wyden wrote in the letter. “Americans are demanding answers from PBMs and pharmaceutical companies, and we expect your company to begin providing them promptly.” (Griffin, 2/26)
ProPublica: Trump Endorsed A Risky Antidepressant For Veterans. Lawmakers Want To Know If His Mar-A-Lago Pals Had A Stake In The Drugmaker.
House Democrats are expanding their investigation of outside influence at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, examining whether a push to use a new antidepressant from Johnson & Johnson was advanced by a group of unofficial advisers who convened at Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump’s private club. The chairmen of the House veterans affairs and oversight committees sent letters last week asking for emails and financial records from the three advisers, Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter, physician Bruce Moskowitz and lawyer Marc Sherman. The Democrats are seeking, among other documents, any communications the men had with Johnson & Johnson and financial records showing whether they had any stake in the company. (Arnsdorf, 2/27)
In other pharmaceutical news —
Stat: Tracking Drugs In The Supply Chain Still Hampered By Poor Paperwork
As Americans debate whether to import prescription drugs from Canada to relieve rising costs, a new government report finds that 16% of medicines examined could not be traced back to their manufacturers, underscoring ongoing concerns about the security of the pharmaceutical supply chain. Specifically, documentation was lacking or mismatched for six of 44 so-called high-risk prescription drugs, although in one instance, a wholesaler refused to provide paperwork, according to the report from the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, which reviewed Medicare Part D claims that were billed between January and May 2018. (Silverman, 2/26)
Stat: Allakos Is Running Trials In Reverse, Critics Say, Raising Questions On Its Drug
Allakos (ALLK) is embroiled in a clinical trial controversy with potentially billions of dollars at stake. The San Francisco Bay Area biotech is using a Phase 1 clinical trial to collect safety and tolerability data on its lead digestive disease drug, called antolimab. The existence of this trial — which Allakos has not told investors about — raises questions about a promise already made to move antolimab into a pivotal Phase 3 clinical trial before the end of March. (Feuerstein, 2/26)
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