House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz has been accused of protecting the drug companies Valeant and Turing Pharmaceuticals from a congressional investigation into alleged price gouging.

Turing’s chief executive, “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli, was savaged in the media recently for increasing the price of a critical drug from $13.50 per tablet to $750 overnight. Valeant has been accused of controlling a secret pharmacy that altered prescriptions so that patients would be forced to buy higher-cost medications, The Intercept reports.

Democrats, led by Elijah Cummings in the House and Bernie Sanders in the Senate, have taken aim at both companies, using them to symbolize rising anxiety over the cost of health treatments. For nearly a year, Cummings has sought internal documents and called for hearings through the Oversight Committee, where he’s the ranking member. Valeant and Turing have thus far resisted the document requests.

The Senate launched a bipartisan investigation of Valeant, Turing and other drugmakers this week. But although the House Oversight Committee agreed unanimously to investigate prescription drug prices at the beginning of the year, Chaffetz has refused every request to compel documents, issue subpoenas or schedule hearings. …

Given the Republican majority, without Chaffetz’s support, no investigation will be authorized. On Tuesday, Chaffetz said he planned to hold hearings on drug costs at some point, but his spokeswoman told the Washington Examiner that no hearings were scheduled.

Chaffetz has received substantial support from the drug industry over the years. Pharmaceutical companies were the top contributor to his campaign in the 2014 election cycle, and no. 2 so far this cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Overall, pharmaceutical interests have donated over $198,000 to Chaffetz during his career, more than any other industry. He has consistently voted against access to affordable prescription drugs throughout his career, according to the organization Progressive Punch. …

The industry has already benefited. When Chaffetz said Tuesday that Valeant would not be the sole subject of any hearings, the price of its stock, which has been battered amid the scandal, jumped three points.

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— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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