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Kaine Introduces Williamsburg Resident Affected By Sudden Price Hikes In Rx Drug At Committee Hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine attended a Senate Aging Committee hearing examining the harmful impacts that price hikes on decades-old prescription drugs have had on patients, hospitals and the health care system. During the hearing, Kaine introduced one of the witnesses, Berna Heyman, a resident of Williamsburg who was diagnosed with Wilson disease in 2005 at the age of 60. Heyman was able to manage her condition effectively with Syprine until 2014, when Valeant Pharmaceuticals drastically raised the price of the drug and she could no longer afford it.  When she realized that she would have had to pay more than $10,000 out of pocket each year, she applied for Valeant’s patient assistance programs and was denied twice.

“Mrs. Heyman contacted the Committee last month to share her experience accessing the medication she needed to treat her Wilson Disease after Valeant purchased the drug and increased the price dramatically,” Kaine said. “I want to thank Mrs. Heyman for sharing her story with the Committee and her willingness help with this investigation.”

“Having Wilson’s Disease is like being stuck in a tunnel. This genetic disease is bad enough with its many uncertainties, risks of organ or cognitive failure. But the exit to the tunnel is barricaded because of the obscene drug cost,” said Heyman in her testimony. “My co-pay for Syprine was under $700 per year until 2013. By 2014, my projected co-pay exceeded $10,000 per year with my insurance paying over $260,000. That is untenable. Something has to be done.”

Since Valeant has gained control of several drugs – some that are life-saving to patients – it has increased prices multiple times, in some cases by a factor of five or six times the original price. Later this afternoon, Kaine will press Valeant CEO Michael Pearson and current Valeant board members Howard Schiller and Bill Ackman on the impacts their drastic price increases on prescription drugs have had on patients who depend on the medications.

Through his role on the Aging Committee, Kaine has previously raised concerns over drastic prescription drug price hikes.