This week, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Maryland, who is the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, announced that he sent letters to several pharmaceutical companies as part of an investigation into the rising costs of prescription drugs. The letters, sent to 12 drug companies, requested detailed information and documents about the companies' pricing practices. Cummings noted that the committee will hold several hearings in the coming weeks to hear from experts, as well as patients affected by rising drug prices. 

The letters seek information and communications on price increases, investments in research and development, and corporate strategies to preserve market share and pricing power. 

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services projects that spending on prescription drugs will increase more rapidly than spending on any other health care sector over the next decade. 

In a prepared statement, Cummings noted that "the federal government bears much of the financial burden of escalating drug prices through Medicare Part D, which provides drug coverage to approximately 43 million people.  The government is projected to spend $99 billion on Medicare Part D in 2019. In 2016, the 20 most expensive drugs to Medicare Part D accounted for roughly $37.7 billion in spending."

Approximately 94% of widely-used brand-name drugs on the market between 2005 and 2017 more than doubled in price during that time, and the average price increase in 2017 was 8.4%—4 times the rate of inflation—according to an analysis conducted by AARP.  A recent Associated Press analysis found that more than 4,400 brand-name drugs increased in price in the first 7 months of 2018 alone, compared to 46 price decreases.

The statement noted several pharmaceutical companies that were contacted, and the products that they treat, including cancer, diabetes, and arthritis, and Cummings noted that the committee is focusing on drugs that are among the costliest to Medicare Part D.  

A survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation last year found that one in five Americans had not filled a prescription due to costs.

This article was originally published on Pharmacy Times.