The time was 10 AM on the morning of April 18, 2016, when Michael Pearson, beleaguered CEO of Valeant Pharmaceuticals, sat down before the U.S. Senate Committee on Aging hearing titled: Valeant Pharmaceuticals’ Business Model: the Repercussions for Patients and the Health Care System. If the session name alone was not damning enough, the tension was heightened by the uncertainties surrounding Mr. Pearson. Previously, the CEO had avoided past hearings, but this time, Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Susan Collins (R-ME) had indicated they would pursue contempt of Congress charges if the prodigal CEO did not appear in person. To all in attendance, it was unclear how Pearson would perform after returning to work only weeks earlier, following a long, hospital-based absence reportedly battling life-threatening pneumonia. As Senators initiated what would become a nine-hour inquiry into Valeant’s actions to acquire and increase the price of rare disease medicines, one new issue came to the forefront—patient assistance programs.

Mr. Pearson testified that Valeant expected to spend more than $1 billion in 2016 on patient assistance programs for 55 of its products. The disclosure and assistance was intended to offset price increases on existing medicines for which Valeant had increased the list prices.

Such initiatives are not uncommon in the pharmaceutical industry. In fact, patient assistance programs have existed for decades as a critical vehicle for drug makers to maximize needy patients’ access to newer, costlier medicines by offsetting the costs. It is nearly impossible to visit a website for a medicine or view a branded television ad and not hear about potential programs that can help if “you are having challenges affording your medicines.”

This content is repurposed from Pharmaceutical Compliance Monitor.