“We are less concerned about the financial impact of fines, although they could be significant, but rather how items like this can bring calls for controls and oversight,” he said.
Some generic drug companies, including Teva, Mylan, Endo and Impax, have said that they received a subpoena. Mylan, for example, said that it had received a subpoena last December from the Justice Department related “to the marketing, pricing and sale of our generic doxycycline products and any communications with competitors about such products.”
A spokeswoman for Mylan said in a statement that the company is cooperating with the investigation and “to date, we know of no evidence that Mylan participated in price-fixing.”
Drug companies have come under intense scrutiny over the last two years over the prices of their drugs, particularly old drugs that have lost their patent protection but have, in some cases, jumped in price. In the case of doxycycline, an antibiotic, for example, the price went from $20 a bottle in October 2013 to $1,849 by April 2014, according to members of Congress who are investigating drug prices.
The same report found that the price of a pill of digoxin, an old heart medicine, rose to $1.10 in 2014 from 11 cents in 2012. Companies, including Impax, have said that federal investigators have asked about digoxin and other drugs.
Close to 90 percent of all drugs dispensed in the United States are for generic versions, which are generally far less expensive than name-brand drugs. A report this summer by the federal Government Accountability Office, for example, found that over all, prices of generic drugs purchased through Medicare’s Part D drug program declined 59 percent from 2010 to 2015, although some price increases were “extraordinary” during the same period.
The industry has consolidated in recent years, and Michael A. Carrier, an antitrust professor at Rutgers Law School, said that the once fiercely competitive players may no longer have as strong of an incentive to do battle. Any broad charge, Mr. Carrier said, “promises to be a bombshell.”