March 04, 2024

Warren Slams Inhaler Manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline for Price-Gouging Patients and Making Inhalers Inaccessible for Children

Big Pharma “company has made a life-saving drug inaccessible for millions of children just months before allergy season — all to pad the profits of [GlaxoSmithKline’s] executives and shareholders.”

Letter Text (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) blasted GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) for its price-gouging strategy that may cause millions of children to lose access to one of the few drugs that is appropriate to treat their asthma and allergies. 

Senator Warren sent the letter in response to GSK discontinuing the brand-name version of Flovent HFA, the go-to inhaler for children, a tactic the company used to evade new rebates it would have owed because of years of outrageous price hikes. Although GSK has pushed its own “authorized generic” version of the inhaler, which they claim is cheaper for patients, many health insurers have chosen not to cover it because of its cost - which in many cases, can be higher than the brand-name drug. As a result, millions of children could be left without their inhalers ahead of allergy season.

“GSK’s insidious tactics may cause millions of children to lose access to one of the few drugs that is appropriate to treat their asthma and allergies, which pediatricians say ‘will result in [more frequent] clinic visits, emergency department visits, hospitalization, or in some cases, loss of life,’” Senator Warren wrote. “This is a shameful money grab that puts millions of children at risk, and follows a year of aggressive price hikes by GSK that have allowed the company to top Wall Street’s expectations.”

As millions  of children stand to lose access to GSK’s inhalers, Senator Warren is pushing GSK for answers on the true cost of their authorized generic and the steps they plan to take to help the patients that have lost access to this life-saving medication.

Senator Warren has been a strong advocate for lower drug pricing and drug patent reform. 

  • On February 7, 2024, U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Angus King and Representative Doggett led 75 lawmakers to urge the Biden administration to strengthen and finalize its guidance to protect taxpayers and lower prescription drug prices.
  • On December 14, 2023, in the wake of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) warnings about drug manufacturers’ patent abuse, Senator Warren and Representative Jayapal sent letters to the CEOs of 8 pharmaceutical companies urging them to voluntarily remove sham patent claims improperly included in the Food and Drug Administrations (FDA)’s “Orange Book” and end their unlawful practices that delay competition and drive up costs for patients and taxpayers.
  • On December 6, 2023, at a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Warren  highlighted the need for the public manufacturing of generic drugs to address critical drug shortages and ensure access and affordability of prescription drugs for consumers. 
  • On December 5, 2023, Senator Warren and Representative Schakowsky reintroduced the Affordable Drug Manufacturing Act, bicameral legislation to address the skyrocketing price of prescription drugs and increase competition in the generic pharmaceutical market by establishing an Office of Drug Manufacturing within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) tasked with manufacturing select generic drugs and offering them to consumers at a fair price that guarantees affordable patient access.
  • On November 22, 2023, Senator Warren Senator Mike Braun sent a letter to Christi Grimm, Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, urging her to determine if large insurance companies are using their vertically integrated pharmacies to evade federal requirements that limit the percentage of premium dollars spent on profits and administration, known as the Medical Loss Ratio (MLR), resulting in sky-high prescription drug costs  and excessive corporate profits. 
  • On September 13, 2023, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Jayapal sent a letter to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chair Lina Khan, ahead of the Commission’s open meeting later, urging the FTC to issue a policy statement about the improper listing of drug-related patents in the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Orange Book.
  • On February 14, 2023, Senator Warren and Representative Jackson Lee pushed for transparency in a letter to the U.S. Patent and Trade office (USPTO) that highlights lawmakers' concerns about the disproportionate challenges faced by underrepresented inventors seeking patent protections for their ideas.
  • In June 2022, Senators Warren and King and Representatives Doggett, Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), and Porter led a group of 100 members from across the ideological spectrum to urge HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra to swiftly act and use his existing authorities to lower prices on critical prescription drugs.
  • In April 2022, Senator Warren sent a letter to HHS Secretary Becerra, sharing the findings from a letter that over 25 legal and public health experts sent to her outlining three powerful legal tools the Biden administration could use to lower drug prices. 
  • In March 2022, Senator Warren and her colleagues called out drug manufacturers for squeezing American families with rapid and widespread price hikes on prescription drugs.
  • In February 2022, Senators Warren and King and Representative Doggett urged HHS to exercise its march-in rights for the life-saving cancer drug Xtandi to dramatically lower its price for millions of Americans.
  • In June 2021, Senator Warren led a letter questioning PhRMA's lobbying efforts to block policies that would lower drug costs for millions of Americans.
  • On December 20, 2019, Senator Warren introduced legislation that would radically reduce drug prices through public manufacturing of prescription drugs, including the Affordable Drug Manufacturing Act with Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).