If Trump's 'serious' on drug pricing, Sanders says he's willing to pitch in

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and President Donald Trump might not agree on much, but they have at least one issue in common, and pharma might not like the result. Both want to bring down the United States’ high drug costs.

Following Trump’s meeting with several Big Pharma CEOs and the trade group PhRMA Tuesday, the firebrand senator said he'd be willing to help if the president is “serious about standing up to the pharmaceutical industry and reducing drug prices."

Along with Rep. Elijah Cummings, Sanders is working on legislation that would allow drug importation from countries such as Canada and Medicare price negotiations, the latter being a strategy the president recently endorsed.

Cummings has already had a chance to chat with Trump about drug pricing. The two talked last Wednesday by phone, after the Congressman made a direct appeal to the president on MSNBC's Morning Joe.  “President, I know you’re watching, so I’m looking forward to meeting with you…” he said, as first reported by American Urban Radio Network. “Call me. I want to talk to you.”

According to the network, Trump then “picked up the phone and called Congressman Cummings. He called his Washington office, and the two spoke on the issue of prescription drugs.” The two had met on Inauguration Day and said then that they'd arrange a discussion, The Hill reported.

Sanders' pledge of help came after Trump met with chief execs of Merck & Co., Novartis, Eli Lilly and other biopharmas, as well as leaders of the industry’s trade group PhRMA, to talk regulations, taxes, manufacturing, jobs and, most importantly, prices.

“You folks have done a terrific job over the years, but we have to get prices down for a lot of reasons,” Trump said at the meeting, according to remarks posted later in the day. He said costs are “astronomical” in the U.S. and later added that his administration is “going to get rid of a tremendous number of regulations” for pharma companies.

Sanders isn’t the only senator who’s on the record offering to lend a hand in the drug price fight. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who early on called for an investigation into Mylan’s EpiPen prices, recently wrote in an op-ed that she’s willing to work with Trump on the issue. To get started, she suggested several tactics that she said would quickly provide price relief. Among them are stepped-up Medicare negotiation powers and drug reimportation.

At the meeting on Tuesday, Trump provided other hints of his administration’s plans on drug pricing. The president said he wants to “streamline” the FDA and end “global freeloading” by countries who use price controls to limit their spending.

Before taking office, Trump said at his first press conference in months that pharma is “getting away with murder,” creating industrywide unease about potential price controls—and sending drugmaker shares downward. He also promised to implement “competitive bidding” to save billions.

Later, Trump told the Washington Post he’d push for more U.S. drug manufacturing and use the power of Twitter to publicly pressure pharma companies on pricing.