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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 
political spectrum.

   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 
hearings.

   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 
party identification.

   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 
cholesterol-lowering medication.

   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.


(KA)

 
 
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