Children's Cause has been carefully following troubling reports of excessive price hikes for prescription drugs, including medicines used to treat children with cancer and other highly vulnerable populations.
This week, the Senate Special Committee on Aging held a bipartisan hearing to investigate these hikes in off-patent drugs. Health care experts testified about the harm done by these price spikes, and Committee leaders strongly criticized four pharmaceutical companies for exploiting a decrease in market competition upon their acquisition of certain off-patent drugs.
The Committee highlighted the particularly egregious example of the drug Daraprim, manufactured by Turing Pharmaceuticals. The cost of Daraprim, used to treat toxoplasmosis, recently increased by 5,000 percent. For people with weakened immune systems - a population that includes children receiving cancer treatment - toxoplasmosis can be fatal.
Dr. David Kimberlin, a pediatric infectious disease physician at the University of Alabama, testified about his personal experience scrambling to find affordable treatments for infants suffering from toxoplasmosis. A course of treatment that used to cost $1,200 now costs $69,000, he told the committee.
"Babies' lives literally hang in the balance here," Dr. Kimberlin testified.
Successful treatment for children with cancer is threatened when essential drugs are hard to access because of exorbitant cost or short supply. Evidence indicates that alternative drugs substituted in original treatment regimens are not as effective as those in standard treatments.
More Congressional hearings around this topic are expected in 2016, and we will continue to monitor this dialogue and engage on behalf of children with cancer.
Read on for more coverage on this week's Senate hearing:
- ABC News: Senate Panel Leaders Condemn Companies for Drug Price Hikes
- Reuters: Senate panel focuses on toll of Valeant, Turing drug price spikes
- USAToday: Steep drug price hikes harm patients, experts testify