Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) have asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether Sanofi, Eli Lilly and Co., Merck & Co. Inc. and Novo Nordisk A/S are guilty of colluding to set prices for insulin and other diabetes treatments, according to Reuters. 

Sanders and Cummings made a similar request last fall for an investigation of more than a dozen drugmakers regarding possible price-fixing activities regarding generic drugs. Bloomberg reported that federal prosecutors could file the first charges in that investigation by the end of this year. 

The DOJ actually began looking into pricing practices for generic drugs two years ago, Bloomberg noted, and Connecticut’s Attorney General’s office issued subpoenas in a civil investigation of price fixing among generic drug companies months before that. Among the companies currently under investigation are Mylan NV, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Actavis (now owned by Teva), Lannett Co., Impax Laboratories Inc., Covis Pharma Holdings S.a.r.l., Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Mayne Pharma Group Ltd., Par Pharmaceutical Holdings and Taro Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.

News of the impending charges drove stock prices down Friday for all of the companies involved in the DOJ’s investigation, some by 20 percent or more.

According to Bloomberg, investigators are looking into the pricing history of about two dozen drugs. Doxycycline, a commonly prescribed antibiotic, is one of them. The New York Times reported that the price of doxycycline increased from $20 per bottle in October 2013 to $1,849 six months later, according to individuals involved in the investigation. 

Another of the drugs is digoxin, which is used to treat heart failure. In early October 2013, Impax sold digoxin for 14 cents per pill and Lannett sold it for 17 cents per pill. Lannett increased its price to $1.185 per pill in mid-October 2013, and within a week Impax raised its price to meet Lannett’s. Par and Sun Pharma subsequently introduced their versions at $1.185 per pill. According to the Food and Drug Administration, there was no shortage of the drug’s active ingredient to cause the price spike. 

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