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Bernie Sanders Calls for Subpoena Over Big Pharma Price Hikes

People are up in arms about pharmaceutical pricing and politicians are starting to take notice.

Bernie Sanders at a town meeting in Arizona

Undeterred by Turing Pharmaceutical’s recent spate of bad publicity and retreat from a 5,000 percent price hike on a life-saving HIV drug, Valeant Pharmaceuticals, a Quebec-based firm, is sticking to its price increase for two heart drugs. But after raising the price of Isuprel by 2,500 percent and Nitropress by 1,700 percent, Valeant is facing more than just public outrage—they’ve caught the attention of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), who are investigating the staggering drug price increases.


As CBC News reports, Valeant purchased the drugs from Marathon Pharmaceuticals in February, jacking up the price the same day. On August 14, a full month before Turing’s price hike, Sanders and Cummings sent letters to Valeant and drug manufacturer Hospira, requesting documents and information relating to the drugs’ pricing and manufacture.

On Monday, Sanders and Cummings sent a letter to the House of Representatives committee on oversight and government reform, chaired by Republican Jason Chaffetz (CA), and it’s clear that the two politicians—along with all 18 members of the committee—are committed to battling Big Pharma on this issue.

“Valeant is using precisely the same business model as Martin Shkreli, the 32-year-old former hedge fund manager whose company recently purchased the life-saving drug Daraprim and increased the price from $13.50 to $750 per pill overnight,” Sanders and Cummings write. “...[w]hen asked about its price increases, a Valeant spokeswoman responded: ‘Our duty is to our shareholders and to maximize the value’ of the drugs.”

Pharmaceutical exec Martin Shkreli. Screenshot via Youtube user US Uncut

“We believe it is critical to hold drug companies to account when they engage in ‘a business strategy of buying old neglected drugs and turning them into high-priced special drugs’,” they continue. “For these reasons, in addition to the subpoena, we also request that the Committee invite the CEO of Valeant to testify before the Committee next week along with Mr. Shkreli since both appear to be engaging in the same business model of acquiring potentially life-saving drugs to maximize their own corporate profits.”

Sanders and Cummings are calling for a subpoena because Valeant has refused to furnish Congress with documents relating to the massive price increase of the two heart drugs. This development, along with Hillary Clinton’s attacks on Big Pharma pricing, makes it clear that the regulatory gauntlet has been thrown down.

Predictably, biotech stock prices have dipped. Expect the pro-free market hysteria machine to make this a political talking point. You know, because stock portfolios are more important than lives.

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The problem with American Sign Language (ASL) is that over 500,000 people in the U.S. use it, but the country has over 330 million people.

So for those with hearing loss, the chances of coming into contact with someone who uses the language are rare. Especially outside of the deaf community.

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Looking back, the year 1995 seems like such an innocent time. America was in the midst of its longest streak of peace and prosperity. September 11, 2001 was six years away, and the internet didn't seem like much more than a passing fad.

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According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

RELATED: Bill and Melinda Gates had a surprising answer when asked about a 70 percent tax on the wealthiest Americans

"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

But Gates presses Letterman saying that the new technology allows you to listen to the game "whenever you want," to which Letterman responds, "Do tape recorders ring a bell?"

Gates then tells Letterman he can keep up with the latest in his favorite hobbies such as cigar smoking or race cars through the internet. Letterman shuts him down saying that he reads about his interests in magazines.

RELATED: Bill Gates has five books he thinks you should read this summer.

The discussion ends with the two laughing over meeting like-minded people in "troubled loner chat room on the internet."

The clip brings to mind a 1994 segment on "The Today Show" where host Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric have a similar discussion.

"What is internet anyway?" an exasperated Gumball asks. "What do you write to it like mail?"

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Culture
Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash

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