October 20, 2016 / 6:20 PM / 4 years ago

Bernie Sanders, U.S. Rep Cummings seek info on Ariad leukemia drug

(Reuters) - Former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings issued a letter on Thursday seeking information from Ariad Pharmaceuticals Inc on the “staggering” price increases for the company’s leukemia drug.

Former Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders waves to the convention with his wife Jane at his side after making a motion to suspend the rules and nominate Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 26, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

The letter was sent a week after Senator Sanders tweeted that: “Drug corporations’ greed is unbelievable. Ariad raised the price of a leukemia drug to almost $199,000 a year.”

Ariad’s drug, Iclusig, was approved in December 2012 and is used to treat chronic myeloid leukemia, a type of bone marrow cancer in which marrow makes too many white blood cells.

Iclusig generated sales of $65.3 million in the second quarter.

The company's pricing strategy came under scrutiny after TheStreet reported this month that the company had raised the price of the drug. (bit.ly/2dcBAmg)

“In the interest of patients and taxpayers, we are interested in learning more about the impact that the escalating price and restrictions on product availability have had,” Sanders and Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, said in the letter.

Ariad acknowledged the receipt of a Congressional letter from Representative Cummings and Sanders requesting information and said it planned to respond to their request.

“Ariad has invested more than $1.3 billion in R&D and accumulated losses of approximately $1.4 billion since the company was founded, which have not been recovered,” Ariad said in a statement.

The company’s shares, which fell as much as 7 percent on Thursday, recovered most of the losses to close at $10.78.

Criticism of Ariad comes at a time when Mylan NV is being lambasted by consumers and lawmakers for raising prices of its lifesaving EpiPen six-fold to over $600 for a package of two in less than a decade.

Mylan said earlier this month it would pay $465 million to settle questions over whether it underpaid U.S. government healthcare programs by misclassifying the EpiPen anti-allergy drug delivery device.

Aggressive drug pricing has come under intense scrutiny after Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted her intent to tackle high prices last year.

Clinton’s tweets have hit shares of Mylan and Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, whose pricing strategy has been investigated by U.S. regulators and lawmakers.

Drug companies are already responding to political pressure. Botox maker Allergan Plc recently committed to keeping price increases below 10 percent.

Reporting by Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva and Don Sebastian

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