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Sanders, Cummings Demand DOJ Investigate Pharma Giants for 'Sick and Disgraceful' Price-Fixing Conspiracy

"Pharmaceutical executives, who should be making medicines affordable for the American people, were instead busy coordinating a cover-up scheme to hide the truth about their price-fixing."

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) leave a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Photo: Susan Walsh/AP)

After 44 state attorneys general filed a lawsuit accusing some of America's largest generic drug manufacturers of a sprawling "multi-year conspiracy" to hike prices on life-saving medicines—in some cases by over 1,000 percent—Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Elijah Cummings on Thursday demanded that the Justice Department launch an investigation into the companies' price-fixing scheme and their alleged efforts to obstruct congressional probes.

"It is sick and disgraceful that generic pharmaceutical executives, who should be making medicines affordable for the American people, were instead busy coordinating a cover-up scheme to hide the truth about their price-fixing conspiracy when we asked about their skyrocketing prices," Sanders said, referring to letters he and Cummings sent in 2014 to inquire about soaring drug costs.

"The Department of Justice must hold these bad actors accountable to the fullest extent of the law."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders

The companies' responses to these inquiries, Sanders said Thursday, amounted to "'polite f-u' letters designed to obstruct our investigation" and "were clearly illegal."

"The Department of Justice must hold these bad actors accountable to the fullest extent of the law," Sanders said.

In their letter (pdf) on Thursday, Sanders and Cummings called on the DOJ to "prioritize criminal enforcement of federal anti-trust laws against generic drug manufacturers."

If the allegations made in the lawsuit by state attorneys general are true, Sanders and Cummings wrote, "civil enforcement will not be sufficient to protect consumers or businesses that compete fairly."

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Sanders and Cummings also urged the Justice Department to launch a probe into whether companies "coordinated with each other to mislead our offices' investigation in 2014 into suspicious price increases of generic drugs."

"In response to our document and information requests, these companies gave excuses for raising prices—such as the costs of regulatory compliance, drug shortages, and user fees—that were at best, grossly misleading, and at worst, false statements to Congress," Sanders and Cummings wrote. "For these reasons, we request that the Department of Justice open an investigation."

As Common Dreams reported last month, the lawsuit by 44 state attorneys general—which described the pharma giants' scheme as "one of the most egregious and damaging price-fixing conspiracies in the history of the United States"—named 20 generic drug manufacturers, including Pfizer, Mylan, and Novartis.

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, whose state led the investigation, said in a statement after the lawsuit was filed that the probe uncovered "hard evidence that shows the generic drug industry perpetrated a multi-billion dollar fraud on the American people."

"We have emails, text messages, telephone records, and former company insiders that we believe will prove a multi-year conspiracy to fix prices and divide market share for huge numbers of generic drugs," said Tong.

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