Pfizer under investigation over links with charities


Pfizer is under investigation over links with organisations that help patients with co-payments for drugs, part of a wider probe into the industry practice .

The company joins many others being probed for such payments - the suspicion being that donations to these charities ultimately help prop up pharma's own high prices.

In its 2016 financial report, the company revealed late last week that it had received subpoenas from the US Attorney Office for the District of Massachusetts.

The subpoenas requested documents related to the Patient Access Network Foundation and other organisations that provide financial assistance to Medicare patients.

Pfizer said it had been providing information in response to these subpoenas.

Several other drugmakers have been probed for such links with charities by the District of Massachusetts, include Gilead, Biogen and Jazz.

Earlier this month Celgene said it had received a second subpoena requesting documents related to patient assistance.

Recent years have seen year-on-year increases in prescription drug prices, and these have been matched in many cases by large donations to patient assistance charities.

Bloomberg reports that the seven biggest co-pay charities received total contributions of $1.1 billion in 2014 -- more than double the total seen in 2010.

The latest subpoena indicates the growing concern among US authorities over drug pricing in the US.

President Trump has vowed to tackle high drug prices, and although unrelated the news that a pharma giant like Pfizer is under investigation is further bad news for an industry under intense scrutiny.

The growing concerns about high drug prices was made evident earlier this month when Marathon abandoned the launch of a drug for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Although Emflaza (deflazacort) is newly-approved, it had been previously available off-label to help treat symptoms at around $1,600 a year when imported to the US.

But Marathon was forced to abandon plans to charge $89,000 a year for the drug because of the uproar from patients and the media.