Rep. Cummings to Trump: It's time to force lower prices on Biogen's new MS drug Zinbryta

After kicking off a probe into multiple sclerosis drug prices last month, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., is asking the U.S. government for quick relief on one drug in particular. That's Biogen's Zinbryta, and Cummings said Americans shouldn't be forced to pay so much for a product they helped develop.

Citing research by nonprofit Knowledge Ecology International, Cummings says Zinbryta is several times more expensive in the U.S. than in other high-income countries. And that's despite the fact that the U.S. owns a patent on the drug and licenses it to Biogen, according to the lawmaker.

On Thursday, Cummings called on President Donald Trump—who himself pledged to bring drug prices down on multiple occasions—to take quick action on Zinbryta. The new MS drug costs $87,000 per year in the U.S., Cummings wrote. 

"You can make a deal to lower the price now!" Rep. Cummings tweeted to the president on Thursday.

A Biogen representative told FiercePharma the company "has been in contact with Representative Cummings and his staff in connection with his request for information about the pricing of MS therapies. We are continuing to cooperate with his inquiry."

The Maryland lawmaker's Twitter posts follow a Sept. 14 letter from KEI director Jamie Love and counsel Andrew Goldman requesting that the U.S. authorize generic competition to Zinbryta, license the drug to another company or terminate the current license. All of those options are legally available, they wrote. 

Under the Bayh-Dole Act, the government retains "significant rights" in such arrangements and can invalidate the license if the company doesn't make its product available on "reasonable terms," Love and Goldman argued. 

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Zinbryta won FDA approval last May after testing in dozens of studies funded by the National Institutes of Health and other government agencies, according to KEI.

Rep. Cummings push on Zinbryta also comes as he and Rep. Peter Welch probe growing MS drug costs, noting last month that some have spiked many times over since their initial approval. 

Along with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Cummings has been among the most active lawmakers on drug pricing in recent years. He met with President Trump earlier this year to talk up a plan for Medicare price negotiation and probed Marathon's $89,000 launch price for Duchenne muscular dystrophy medicine Emflaza. The company paused the launch and later offloaded the drug to PTC Therapeutics. 

For its part, KEI is no stranger to taxpayer-funded medical research and licensing. The nonprofit was heavily involved in the Sanofi Zika vaccine deal with the U.S. Army, calling for pricing assurances because of the potential product's public support.

That deal ultimately lost steam as Zika's spread slowed, officials announced earlier this month. The nonprofit has also pushed for the government to force lower prices on Pfizer and Astellas' prostate cancer med Xtandi.