After some political tussling last month, congressional pharma watchdog Rep. Elijah Cummings finally met with President Donald Trump to talk drug prices. Unfortunately for pharma, Cummings used the Wednesday meeting to push his plan for Medicare price negotiations.
Along with Rep. Peter Welch, Cummings met with Trump to present a plan that would allow Medicare to negotiate Part D drug prices by striking a “non-interference clause” from current laws, according to a statement from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Among other points, the proposal calls for a formulary to “leverage the purchasing power of the government,” according to the statement, and sets up a “fallback process” in case prospective negotiations are fruitless.
And the congressmen seem to have the president on their side; Cummings told reporters after the meeting that Trump was "enthusiastic" and said he'd push for their proposal, according to the Washington Post. Trump told HHS Secretary Tom Price—who also attended the meeting—to "get this done," according to Cummings.
The Wednesday session is the latest development in a Trump-Cummings exchange on drug prices, which began when the president saw Cummings address the issue on TV. Trump called Cummings to suggest a meeting. Then, last month, during a lengthy press conference, Trump said Cummings had dodged a meeting with him for political reasons.
Cummings fired back. “I have no idea why President Trump would make up a story about me like he did today,” he said in a statement.
Nonetheless, the group got together on Wednesday and had a “productive" exchange, the congressman said.
The lawmakers’ negotiation push is the latest in a series of political proposals that have kept pharma on the defensive amid a growing swell of attention to U.S. drug prices. Just last week, Cummings joined a group of lawmakers who presented new legislation calling for importation from Canada; that group also seeks Trump’s support.
After confusion on the Medicare negotiation issue last month, White House spokesperson Sean Spicer said the president is still “absolutely” in favor of the price-fighting measure.
The drug industry is not, and that's one reason the original Part D legislation did not allow Medicare to directly negotiate prices. Proposals to lift that restriction have cropped up in Congress repeatedly, but, partly because of pharma's powerful lobbying, those measures have never passed.
On multiple occasions, the president has pledged to bring down prices by growing competition in the industry. On Tuesday, following the unveiling of the Republican healthcare bill, Trump teased a “new system” to address pricing on Twitter, leaving industry-watchers curious for more details.