Lawmakers to Teva, Mylan: Stop stonewalling our price-fixing probe

Elijah Cummings
Rep. Elijah Cummings has been digging into pharma companies for years. Now he's asking Teva, Mylan and Heritage for info about alleged generic-drug price fixing, years after an earlier request. (AFGE/CC BY 2.0)

Pharma watchdogs Rep. Elijah Cummings and Sen. Bernie Sanders want answers on generics pricing—and with none forthcoming from the Justice Department, they're pressing drugmakers for the info themselves. Again.

In letters to executives at Mylan, Teva and Heritage Pharmaceuticals, the congressmen requested specific pricing information they originally tried to get way back in 2014. But this time around, they’re also accusing the companies of conspiring to keep the information to themselves.

Using emails obtained by the Connecticut Attorney General's office during its price-fixing probe, Cummings and Sanders contend the companies worked together to coordinate a unified response to their congressional probe. In one email, a Heritage representative wrote that the companies would respond with "polite f-u’ letters," according to a lawsuit filed by state attorneys general.

Cummings and Sanders' new letters ask for info about the drugmakers’ alleged “attempts to coordinate your responses to our investigation.” They said the companies' previous responses—inadequate as they were—might've broken federal law.

Nearly five years after their first request, the companies still haven’t turned over any documents, the lawmakers wrote. The “apparent obstruction” has not only delayed the probe, but it “may have caused further harm to patients and healthcare providers by delaying the discovery of evidence about the companies' price-fixing." 

The senators wrote that “obstructing or evading a Congressional investigation, including withholding or concealing information, is a violation of federal law.” 

The letters seek info on specific drugs such as revenue, expenses, sales contracts and more. On the alleged obstruction, they want the companies’ communications relating to the 2014 information request, including written documents and records of phone calls.  

Teva said in a statement the company "continues to cooperate fully with all investigations." A Mylan spokeswoman told FiercePharma the company "respects Congress’s long-standing interest in drug pricing and has worked and will continue to work constructively with Congress to provide it with information relevant to its inquiries." The company denies obstructing the earlier records request.

"With assistance from outside counsel we thoroughly investigated allegations made against our company and employees in the civil complaint filed by various state attorneys general, including the most recent allegation relating to obstruction," Mylan's spokeswoman added. "We have not found any evidence to corroborate the allegations." 

RELATED: Lawmakers, angered by 'polite f-u' letters, urge DoJ to get moving on generic price-fixing probe 

This week's letters are only the latest demand the companies and others have received through years of price-fixing allegations and investigations. Back in May, dozens of state attorneys general sued Teva and 19 other companies alleging an industrywide scheme to conspire on generic prices and rig markets. 

In an SEC filing, Mylan said it believes claims in the AGs' lawsuit are “without merit” and that it intends to defend against them “vigorously.” For its part, Teva denies engaging in “conduct that would give rise to liability” with respect to price-fixing lawsuits.  

RELATED: Ex-Heritage execs turn state's evidence in far-reaching generic pricing probe 

The DoJ has been investigating alleged price-fixing itself, but its investigation hasn't yielded much in the way of legal action. In 2017, prosecutors secured plea deals with two former Heritage Pharma executives who are now cooperating with the probe.

Then, in May, the company itself struck a deal with federal prosecutors. Sanders and Cummings wrote to DOJ officials in June to tell them to get moving with the probe. In SEC filings, Teva and Mylan said they’re cooperating with the Department of Justice.