Who's partisan? Republicans urge drug company CEOs to ignore pricing probe started by Democrat

Elijah Cummings
Rep. Elijah Cummings has been one of pharma's loudest critics in Washington, D.C. in recent years. (AFGE/CC BY 2.0)

This may be a first for a Congressional investigation: House Oversight and Government Reform Committee members are urging pharma CEOs to stonewall instead of cooperating with an ongoing pricing probe.

Democrat Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, kicked off the pricing investigation in January, and now, committee Republicans have dispatched letters to a dozen top executives warning them not to participate.

Why? For one thing, Cummings could leak the info drugmakers hand over, Reps. Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows suggested in the letters, which call the investigation a "partisan" probe. Cummings has boasted that his pricing scrutiny has moved pharma's stock prices, they contend, and they say he “unilaterally” released sensitive information related to another investigation.

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The Republicans want Cummings to work with them on an investigation, the letters say, and they're advising the drug executives to refuse to cooperate with the chairman's requests in the meantime. 

Cummings, in a statement to BuzzFeed News, said Jordan “would rather protect drug company ‘stock prices’ than the interests of the American people.” Novo Nordisk, Novartis, Celgene, Pfizer, Amgen, Eli Lilly, Sanofi, Teva, AbbVie, AstraZeneca, Mallinckrodt and Johnson & Johnson are involved in the probe.

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"For years, drug companies have been aggressively increasing prices on existing drugs and setting higher launch prices for new drugs while recording windfall profits," Cummings said in a statement when he unveiled the probe.

Cummings asked the companies for information about price increases, research investments and “corporate strategies to preserve market share and pricing power.” The Republican lawmakers said Cummings is asking for "highly sensitive business-proprietary" information that could hurt the companies if released. And Cummings has decided to release sensitive information before, they wrote.

The Democratic lawmaker's probe is one of several drug pricing efforts he's undertaken in recent years as he’s been one of pharma’s loudest critics in Washington, D.C. Mylan’s EpiPen scandal and Valeant’s pricing controversy are a couple of other instances where Cummings sounded off against pharma.

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