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BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Charging too much for life-saving drugs. Representative Elijah Cummings wants to make sure that doesn’t happen, and on Wednesday, he spoke about it on Capitol Hill.
Andrea Fujii reports, the University of Maryland women’s basketball coach Brenda Frese alerted him to the problem.
Four-year-old Tyler Frese is alive today thanks to chemotherapy drugs. He’s Brenda Frese’s son.
After his treatment for leukemia, Brenda Frese realized his miracle drug was in short supply and its skyrocketing price may be too expensive for other patients.
“These people who are wanting to gain a profit. What would their life look like if their son or daughter was someone that needed this drug?” Brenda Frese said.
She took her concern to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland).
Cummings then helped lead an investigation into drug companies that sell medication in short supply at exorbitant prices.
“I initiated this investigation last year after receiving a heartfelt letter from Brenda Frese,” Cummings said.
He found one company was selling a cancer drug for more than $500 a vial when it typically sells for $65.
Wednesday afternoon, Cummings testified in front of the Senate Commerce Committee pushing a bill to deter price gouging.
In a recent WJZ investigation, pharmacists and doctors say drug shortages more than tripled in the last six years.
But the Frese family and now lawmakers argue life-saving medication should never be out of reach.
“I can’t imagine them telling us, ‘Yeah, there’s a drug that’s going to help save your kid’s life, but it’s not available’,” Mark Frese, Tyler Frese’s father, said.
Doctors say drug shortages often happen because the medication becomes generic and profits then plummet so there’s less incentive to make it. Drug makers deny that saying they can’t keep up with increased demand.
The companies investigated in Cummings’ report declined an invitation to speak today on Capitol Hill.