FiercePharmaPolitics—With impeachment inquiry underway, can drug pricing action find common ground?

Drug prices
A bipartisan effort on drug prices might be a long shot now with a pending impeachment inquiry. (Getty/Tero Vesalainen)

Welcome to the FiercePharma political roundup, where each Monday we’ll highlight notable developments in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere that could affect how drugmakers operate

A bipartisan solution on drug pricing may no longer be in the cards after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi kicked off an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump last week. Previously, Trump tweeted that he’d like to see the two parties work together on drug prices.

Now, as Democrats and Republicans rush to either investigate or defend the president, that bipartisan effort—even on an issue as voter-friendly as drug pricing—could be a long shot.

So it remains to be seen how the administration and Congress will approach the drug pricing issue as 2020 elections inch closer. For more details on Pelosi’s plan and the bill in the Senate, check out our prior coverage. 

  • While political tensions escalated last week, Axios reported that both Democrats and Republicans could still benefit from a drug pricing deal. One Republican strategist predicted legislative efforts would be put on hold during the impeachment inquiry, Agios said, but a Democratic strategist said voters still want to see action. An administration official told the publication Trump’s team will be “working energetically” on the issue. 

  • Sen. Chuck Grassley knows pharma prices remain an important issue for voters. He told reporters that passing a drug pricing bill will be critical for Republicans to keep the Senate majority in 2020, Politico reports.  

  • Just as lawmakers know that voters want drug-pricing relief, the pharma industry knows it faces a serious threat. BIO president James Greenwood told the Wall Street Journal companies now face the “stiffest political headwinds in the history of the industry.” Drug companies are lobbying lawmakers to pass legislation to block certain pricing proposals and urging the administration to crack down on middlemen such as PBMs, the report says. 

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues to drum up support for her ambitious pricing proposal. Last week, a Pelosi aide urged the insurance industry to join with other healthcare companies and employer groups to form a coalition against the pharma industry’s forthcoming opposition.

  • Meanwhile, California released new statistics following its 2017 law forcing drugmakers to disclose info about price hikes that total 16% or more over three years. But as STAT notes, not all companies complied with the state’s push to learn about the rationale behind the hikes. Many companies withheld info about their reasoning for price hikes, frustrating officials, according to the report. 

  • As the pricing debate plays out in the U.S., investigators reported two studies at ESMO that found new cancer drugs don’t add a lot of benefit for patients over existing meds, but come with much higher costs.