Democrats pitch idea for drug pricing 'enforcer' ahead of Trump's speech

Democrats urged President Donald Trump to support their drug pricing proposals on Thursday. (Pixabay)

Ahead of President Donald Trump's much-anticipated drug pricing speech—set to take place Friday—Democrats primed the public with drug pricing facts and proposals of their own. Party leaders and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., argued at a Thursday press conference that pharmaceutical prices have actually gone up under President Trump and detailed their own plans to bring them down.

Among the senators and representatives at the presser were Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who has tried on several occasions to work with Trump on drug prices, plus Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. They pushed a "Better Deal" pricing plan that includes a proposal for a new agency and high-level drug pricing "enforcer" to investigate and punish companies.

Representative Cummings previously tried to pitch Trump on an idea for government price negotiations and got "radio silence" in return, he said on Thursday. Senator Sanders said if Trump is serious about lowering drug costs, he should ask Republican leaders in Congress to schedule votes for importation and price negotiation measures now pending.  

Several of the Democrats said Trump will make it clear tomorrow whether he's siding with pharma or patients. 

RELATED: Cummings uses Trump drug-price meeting to push Medicare negotiation plan 

According to Pelosi's website, the "Better Deal" plan calls for Medicare to negotiate drug prices and for legislation requiring pharma companies to provide data justifying "any significant price hike." 

The Democrats are also calling for a new agency and independent position in government—a "price gouging enforcer" that requires Senate confirmation, the site says. The enforcer would head a new division to stop "unconscionable" price hikes by investigating big price increases and imposing fines. Then, the proceeds would go back to fund research at the National Institutes of Health.

At their Thursday presser, the Democrats and Sanders urged Trump to take a tough stance on drug prices. It remains to be seen just how Trump's administration will look to tackle prices after more than a year of talk, but indications are it'll look at value-based pricing and scrutinize the supply chain, among other potential approaches.

RELATED: Trump, Azar say a plan for drug prices is coming in 'about a month'

Before entering the White House, Trump said that pharma is "getting away with murder." Yet despite the tough tone and overwhelming public support to bring prices down, the industry has largely dodged pricing action from the U.S. government and many drugmakers have implemented routine price hikes during Trump's time in the office.

For his part, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has worked to boost generic competition and tweak agency regulations that make it possible for branded drugmakers to dodge competition, thereby increasing prices. Gottlieb also recently trained his sights on the supply chain for its role in driving prices higher. 

President Trump reportedly had two scheduled past dates for the big speech on drug prices, but now he is expected to deliver it Friday.  

Editor's note: This story was updated with comments from Thursday's press conference.