NEW YORK — Lawmakers are going after companies that they say have sought to take advantage of drug shortages by buying drugs in short supply and then reselling them at higher prices, according to published reports.
The Associated Press reported that Sen. John D. Rockefeller, D-W.Va., Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., had sent letters to three people whom they alleged to be operating a "shell game," obtaining licenses to create gray-market pharmacy and wholesale companies that would buy drugs from legitimate wholesalers, then resell them to other gray-market companies. In one instance, a company called Priority Healthcare allegedly bought the chemotherapy drug fluorouracil for $6.77 per vial and then sold it through its distributor, Tri-Med America, to another company for $69 per vial.
Currently, the congressmen are investigating three companies, but Cummings had sent letters to an additional 19 that may be involved in the same activity. Most of the drugs are generics used in hospitals, including chemotherapy drugs, painkillers and antibiotics, according to AP.
Cummings was quoted as saying that if the gray-market companies' alleged activities weren't illegal, they should be because they threatened the lives of patients. Drug shortages can result in doctors postponing treatments for serious diseases, and an investigation by AP last fall found that at least 15 people had died since 2010 due to drug shortages.