Drugmakers received grand jury subpoenas from the U.S. Justice Dept. this week in connection with an antitrust probe into companies that market intravenous saline solutions.
ICU Medical (NSDQ:ICUI), which recently acquired Hospira Infusion Systems from Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), and Baxter (NYSE:BAX) disclosed the subpoenas this week. Pfizer revealed that it is also wrapped up in the investigation, according to Reuters.
“Pfizer can confirm that it has received grand jury subpoenas in connection with an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division and we are evaluating the requests,” Pfizer told the news outlet.
The subpoenas reportedly requested documents and testimony about the manufacturing, selling, pricing and shortages of intravenous solutions, as well as communications with competitors. Baxter and ICU Medical told Reuters that they are cooperating with the investigation. The companies have also received information requests from New York AG Eric Schneiderman.
The probe comes as hospitals are enduring a shortage of intravenous saline solutions, which are used to hydrate hospital patients. The shortage dates back to late 2013, after drugmakers told hospitals they might experience delays.
The FDA added saline solutions to its drug shortage list in January 2014 and concluded that the shortage was due to increased hospital demand.
In 2015, a group of U.S. senators asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Baxter, Hospira and B. Braun – the 3 companies supplied all of the saline solution used in the U.S. Since the shortage began, prices rose 200% to 300%, according to the lawmakers.
“It is promising that the Department of Justice is moving forward with an investigation to get to the bottom of the causes of this shortage and whether anticompetitive behavior is unfairly driving up healthcare costs,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said in a statement this week.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said the Justice Dept.’s probe was “an important step toward getting to the bottom of any possible illegal collusion by saline solution manufacturers.”