Jan 22, 2021

Investigation Will Shed Light On Big Pharma’s Price Hikes During Public Health Crisis

Washington, D.C. – The Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing (CSRxP) released a statement Friday reacting to an announcement from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office that it has launched a probe into significant price spikes for six drugs connected to the COVID-19 pandemic: Ascor, manufactured by McGuff Pharmaceuticals; Budesonide, manufactured by Cipla USA Inc.; Dexonto, manufactured by Nubratori, Inc.; Mytesi, manufactured by Jaguar Health; Duramorph, manufactured by Hikma Pharmaceuticals; and Chloroquine phosphate tablets, manufactured by Rising Pharmaceuticals. The Governor’s office has demanded statements from each manufacturer explaining the facts and circumstances surrounding the price hikes.

“We commend Governor Cuomo for shining a light on price-gouging behavior from drug companies during the worst public health crisis in nearly a century,” said CSRxP executive director Lauren Aronson. “Policymakers at every level of government should work to expose any instances of price-gouging of COVID-19 treatments and hold Big Pharma accountable for hiking prices during a pandemic.”

“Despite calls to suspend price hikes while millions of Americans continue to grapple with the economic consequences of the pandemic, Big Pharma raised prices on nearly 800 drugs in the first month of this year alone,” Aronson continued. “We hope that Governor Cuomo’s decision to investigate these price hikes sends a signal to lawmakers in Washington D.C. that they must act swiftly to hold drug companies accountable and ensure COVID-19 treatments and vaccines are priced affordably, especially considering the industry has received billions of dollars from taxpayers.”

Governor Cuomo’s office announced investigations into six specific price hikes, including:

  • Ascor (ascorbic acid) 25,000 mg/50 mL bulk vial – Ascor is a formulation of Vitamin C for IV injection manufactured by McGuff Pharmaceuticals. McGuff raised the price of this drug by 110% about a week after clinical trials were announced for use of the drug to treat COVID-19 patients suffering acute symptoms.
  • Budesonide 0.5 mg/2 mL inhalation (60 mL) – One of two corticosteroids to be investigated, a generic formulation produced by Cipla USA Inc. increased in price by over 1350% in the midst of the first wave of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and on the heels of an announcement of international clinical trials for its use to treat COVID-19 patients.
  • Dexonto (dexamethasone) 5 mL vial of a 0.4% solution – Dexonto is the other corticosteroid under investigation and is a branded generic drug manufactured by Nubratori, Inc.  This manufacturer announced a price increase of over 65% at the beginning of the pandemic, just 11 days before clinical trials for treating COVID-19 patients with the drug were announced in China.
  • Mytesi (crofelemer) 125 mg delayed release tablet, 60s – Manufactured by Jaguar Health, Mytesi is a drug used to treat gastrointestinal side effects of antiretroviral therapies used by HIV patients.  Jaguar increased the price of the drug by 230% just days after it applied for an emergency use authorization for use to treat COVID-19 patients.
  • Duramorph (morphine sulfate) 1 mg/1 ml (10 mL 10s) – While most morphine formulations experienced modest increases in price during the early months of the pandemic, this branded product manufactured by Hikma Pharmaceuticals experienced an anomalous increase of nearly 60%.
  • Chloroquine phosphate 250 mg tablets – The chloroquine family of drugs has made many headlines during the pandemic, but Rising Pharmaceuticals appears to have attempted to capitalize on unsubstantiated reports of its effectiveness in treating COVID-19 patients early in the pandemic when it raised its price by 97.8%.
These pandemic price hikes build on the almost 800 price hikes brand name drug makers have made already this year. These include hikes from brand name manufactures such as Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi.
  • Pfizer hiked prices on more than 130 drugs, including on its cancer treatment Ibrance and popular rheumatoid arthritis drug Xeljanz.
  • GlaxoSmithKline raised prices on more than 30 drugs, including on its blockbuster respiratory treatments and its cancer drug Zejula.
  • Sanofi raised prices on more than 30 drugs.

Read more on Big Pharma’s New Year’s price hikes HERE.

Read more on bipartisan, market-based solutions to hold Big Pharma accountable HERE.