UPDATED: Investigating price hikes, lawmakers rap Valeant for withholding documents again

Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD) are keeping up the pressure on Valeant Pharmaceuticals ($VRX). The leaders of the House Committee on Oversight and Government reform once again prodded the company to hand over information they had demanded last year.

Chastising the drugmaker for withholding documents and refusing to answer questions about them, the lawmakers instructed CEO J. Michael Pearson to provide details about documents Valeant wants to keep private.

According to a letter released Thursday, for each withheld document, they want a description, a number of pages, and the reason why Valeant hasn't turned it over. Then, the committee will decide whether the company is justified in shielding the documents from inspection.

Cummings first demanded documents on Valeant's price hikes last August, but the company refused to hand over anything, the letter stated. Additional demands on January 6, ahead of a hearing on Feb. 4, also produced little, the lawmakers said at the time.

Valeant attorney Robert Kelner, a partner at Covington & Burling, said in a statement that the company is "surprised and puzzled" by the committee's letter, "given that we have produced more than 78,000 pages of documents." Denying access to documents covered by attorney-client privilege is standard procedure in a Congressional investigation, Kelner said.

Rep. Elijah Cummings

Apparently, Cummings thinks those 78,000 pages aren't enough, or that they're the wrong pages. At the hearing, Cummings criticized the company for dragging its feet, stating at the hearing that Valeant's previous refusals to provide documents "obstructed our ability to investigate their actions." Valeant says it has only withheld "privileged" documents.

It's far from the first time that lawmakers have prodded Valeant to hand over documents requested as part of an investigation into potential price-gouging. Chaffetz and Cummings themselves have repeatedly accused the company of dragging its feet on producing information.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) slammed Valeant for failing to answer questions and provide information requested by the Senate Committee on Aging. McCaskill, along with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who heads up the committee, is investigating the company's price hikes.

In a letter to company Pearson last fall, McCaskill said Valeant's response provided "limited information" on the revenue it's generated from hefty price increases on Isuprel and Nitropress, drugs it had bought from Marathon Pharmaceuticals.

Valeant completely left out the other info McCaskill requested--total expenses associated with the drugs, contracts related to the purchase of their APIs, dates and amounts of specific price tweaks, et cetera. "Your failure to provide a complete response to my requests is deeply disappointing," she wrote at the time.

The documents Valeant did produce were opened up for scrutiny before the February hearing, and they raised new questions about the company's price increases. The documents offered evidence that Valeant had raised the prices on CV meds Isuprel and Nitropress by up to fivefold simply "to exploit [its] temporary monopoly," Cummings said at the time.

Now, Kelner says Valeant is preparing a log detailing the documents that are being withheld under attorney-client privilege. "We have cooperated with the committee's review from the beginning and look forward to providing them with that log, pursuant to their request," he said.

- get the committee's release
- see Valeant's statement
- read the lawmakers' latest letter

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Editor's note: This story was updated with a statement from Valeant.