House Dems to Probe Drug Pricing 01/15 06:23
House Democrats announced a sweeping investigation Monday of the
pharmaceutical industry's pricing practices, jockeying for the upper hand with
the Trump administration on an issue that concerns Americans across the
WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Democrats announced a sweeping investigation Monday
of the pharmaceutical industry's pricing practices, jockeying for the upper
hand with the Trump administration on an issue that concerns Americans across
the political spectrum.
Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings said he's sent
letters to 12 major drugmakers seeking detailed information and documents about
pricing practices for brand-name drugs to treat diseases including cancer,
diabetes, kidney failure and nerve pain.
Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, said he wants to find out why prices have
increased so dramatically for some existing medications, as well as how drug
companies determine the prices of newly introduced medicines. The committee
also is seeking information on what the manufacturers do with revenue and what
steps can be taken to reduce prescription drug costs.
"Research and development efforts on groundbreaking medications have made
immeasurable contributions to the health of Americans," Cummings said. "But the
ongoing escalation of prices by drug companies is unsustainable." The
committee, which has broad jurisdiction and subpoena power, is planning to hold
The Trump administration has been pursuing its own plan to lower drug prices
by approving more generic medications and trying to do away with industry
practices that allow manufacturers, insurers and pharmacy benefit managers to
profit at the consumer's expense. But independent analysts have said the
administration's approach does not stop companies from charging high prices to
begin with, particularly for brand-name medications with no generic competitors.
Polls regularly show that high drug prices are a major concern for
consumers, and that majorities favor government action regardless of political
Last week, Cummings and other prominent liberals introduced legislation that
would tie U.S. prices to what consumers pay in other economically advanced
countries, where governments regulate prices. The Trump administration has been
moving in the same general direction, with an experiment that would involve a
limited set of medications, those administered in a doctor's office.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America had no immediate
response to Cummings' announcement, but the trade group has previously said
that price regulation would "wreak havoc" on the U.S. health care system by
undermining the financial incentives for companies to undertake costly research
in pursuit of breakthrough medications.
The list of companies on the receiving end of Cummings' demand reads like an
industry who's who. Included are Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and Eli Lilly, the
former employer of current U.S. health secretary Alex Azar.
Among the drugs Cummings wants to find out about are Gleevec, a widely used
cancer treatment from Novartis; Nexium, Pfizer's gastric reflux medication,
Humalog, a type of insulin from Eli Lilly, and Crestor, AstraZenaca's
A majority of U.S. adults take prescription medication, in most cases
affordable generics. But the high cost of some brand-name drugs has alarmed
consumers. A few years ago, the hepatitis C cure Sovaldi made headlines when it
was selling for $1,000 a pill. Cancer treatments can cost tens of thousands of
dollars a year. Patients are not covered by insurance for all costs, and
sometimes doctors and insurers disagree about the best approach for treatment,
adding to stress for families.
The House Oversight committee has a track record of investigating issues of
national significance under leadership from both parties. But it can also
devolve into a forum of pursuing partisan agendas.