Congressman Elijah Cummings and President Donald Trump reportedly met to discuss drug prices yesterday, after an interesting back-and-forth between the two men, in which Trump accused Cummings of not taking his calls. Cummings insisted the White House had not called and offered to meet with the President about addressing the unreasonably high price of drugs.
Mr. Cummings serves as the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which called Mylan CEO Heather Bresch to testify last September. At that hearing, Cummings expressed a frustration that such hearings have not resulted in action in the past, with CEOs instead resuming their activities as if nothing had happened. (This turned out not to be the case with Heather Bresch, who has made multiple public appearances since September's hearing. She has been advocating more transparency and clarity when it comes to the drug supply chain.) Cummings has been particularly vocal about high drug prices since.
Hopefully, Congressman Cummings got through to President Trump about the severity and urgency of the problem. Today, millions of Americans cannot take drugs properly as prescribed by their doctor simply because their prescriptions are too expensive. Brand name pharma keeps generic competition off the market using dirty tricks. The market, which cannot function competitively in the current regulatory climate, is not strong enough to stop companies from jacking up prices overnight by many hundreds of percents. President Trump has expressed his desire multiple times for something to be done about drug prices. Advocates can trust that Congressman Cummings brought the President many sound policy ideas to address the problem.
The movement is picking up steam, but the "mainstream" policy package has not yet fully embraced scrutiny of middlemen like PBMs to bring down drug prices. That recommendation was not present in the Brown-Franken letter to the President, for example. In the past week, multiple news outlets wrote about the importance of including PBMs in the policy prescription to bring down drug prices. We hope that Congressman Cummings has been engaged with that aspect of the issue, and that reform will eventually make it to the President's desk.