June 11, 2018

Warren and Smith Press HHS Secretary Azar on Broken Promises in Trump Drug Pricing Proposal Prior to Appearance Before Congress

Administration Plan Could Increase Costs for Seniors; Provides No New Authority to Negotiate for Lower Prices

Letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar (PDF)

Letters to Drug Company CEOs (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) sent a 12-page letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar with 38 questions seeking new information to address their concerns about President Trump's inadequate new proposals to reduce drug prices and his broken campaign promises to "negotiate like crazy" for lower drug prices. Last month, the senators also sent letters to the top ten drug company CEOs asking if they had voluntarily reduced prices as President Trump and Secretary Azar have suggested they would in response to the Administration's drug pricing blueprint. Not one company had done so - and one of the few companies that gave a clear answer to the senators' letter indicated that they have "some planned price increases later this year." Secretary Azar is testifying before the Senate Help, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee on the Administration's drug proposals tomorrow.

"During the campaign, President Trump made a series of bold promises about reducing drug prices," wrote the senators. "We are gravely concerned that the American public has been misled by the President - that his plan breaks his campaign promises, and would do little to reduce out-of-pocket drug costs for American families."

The senators asked Secretary Azar about four major concerns with the Administration's drug proposals:

1) The plan could "significantly increase out-of-pocket costs for some of the sickest people on Medicare by shifting drug coverage from Medicare Part B to Medicare Part D."

2) President Trump's promises that voluntary price reductions are a solution to the drug pricing problem are proven failures.

3) The plan does nothing to reduce runaway drug company profits and drug company CEO pay.

4) The plan was reportedly developed by former drug industry lobbyists, with little input from patients and seniors with high drugs costs.   

In their letter, the senators raised particular concern about the President's broken promise to save "$300 billion a year" by negotiating for lower drug prices. His new plan contains no new negotiating authority for the federal government, even in cases where the government pays billions of dollars for prescription drugs. Instead, the plan relies on a weak substitute for meaningful negotiation by proposing to shift an unspecified set of drugs from Medicare Part B to Medicare Part D. But experts indicate that this plan could result in even higher costs and co-pays for millions of seniors. A recent report by the HHS Office of Inspector General also found that "Part D unit costs for brand-name drugs rose nearly 6 times faster than inflation from 2011 to 2015."
The senators called on Secretary Azar to be prepared to answer their questions about the Administration's proposals at his appearance before the Senate HELP Committee tomorrow.