Senate begins hearing on skyrocketing drug costs

Something needs to be done to curb the increasing prices of prescription drugs, according to officials from hospitals and other facets of the healthcare sector who testified this week at a U.S. Senate hearing.

The Senate hearing was prompted in part by Martin Shkreli, CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, The Washington Post reported. Shkreli engaged in a series of television news interviews where he appeared unaffected by the uproar surrounding his decision to raise the price of the 63-year-old drug Daraprim more than 50-fold. Sen. Claire McCaskill, (D- Mo.), said the decision "shocks the conscience."

However, many other drug manufacturers have raised the prices of their products more surreptitiously, escaping the scrutiny of lawmakers and putting providers into a bind, according to The Washington Post. In one instance, the University of Alabama Hospital in Birmingham was smacked by an increase in the cost of a pediatric drug from $54 a month to more than $3,000. Johns Hopkins reported being unable to obtain a once widely available drug for a kidney transplant patient, who began experiencing hallucination.

"This is a life-threatening infection, your company has restricted access to the drug, and you're not open on the weekend? Are you kidding me? We're paying so much for this drug. Why can't you stay open on the weekend?" Annie Antar, M.D., told the newspaper. "I felt like I was in a third-world country, I felt like I was in a Soviet country. This isn't how American medical systems work."

Gerard Anderson, director of the Center for Hospital Finance and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, suggested that the government must intervene given that mergers and acquisitions have eliminated a lot of competition in the drug sector. 

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