June 26, 2018

Warren, Smith Seek Answers from Secretary Azar on Flawed Trump Drug Pricing Plan

Question Strategy of Voluntary Price Reductions, Cost Increases for Seniors; Concerned about Pharma Influence on Administration Proposals;

List of Questions (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) today submitted sixty-nine written questions for the record (QFRs) for Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alexander Azar following up on their exchanges with him during a June 12th Senate Help, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing. At the hearing, the senators expressed concern about President Trump's inadequate proposals to reduce drug prices and his promise that drug companies would be "announcing voluntary massive drops in prices within two weeks" in reaction to the Administration's new drug plan. Prior to the hearing, the senators also sent a letter to Secretary Azar containing a detailed set of questions about the Administration's drug pricing proposals. The QFRs submitted today reiterate many of these questions.

The senators' QFRs press for more details about what President Trump meant when he said drug companies would voluntarily reduce prices, which meetings have taken place with drug manufacturers to discuss these voluntary reductions, and how the Administration will ensure that drug manufacturers do not break any forthcoming voluntary pledges to reduce prices. Last month, the senators sent letters to the top ten drug company CEOs asking if they had voluntarily reduced prices in response to the Administration's plan - and not one company had done so.

In their QFRs, the senators also raise serious concerns about potential drug price increases for seniors due to the Administration's proposal to switch Medicare drug coverage from Part B to Part D, and ask Secretary Azar for evidence that this will result in lower prices for seniors. Such a proposed shift of drug coverage would leave millions of seniors who do not have Medicare Part D drug coverage with no apparent source of insurance for these drugs and could increase co-pays and out-of-pocket costs for the drugs, because many drug co-pays under Medicare Part D are higher than the 20% co-pays for drugs under Medicare Part B.

The senators also ask Secretary Azar about the impact of the Administration's drug pricing plan on drug company profits and the compensation of pharmaceutical company executives. They ask for more information on reporting that a former drug industry lobbyist helped write key parts of the plan - including if other Administration staff who formerly worked for or lobbied for drug manufacturers played a role in the development of the drug plan, a list of meetings Secretary Azar and his staff held with drug manufacturers during the development of the drug proposal, and if any meetings were held with organizations representing seniors and other consumers. The senators also ask a series of questions about Administration proposals that could curtail drug discounts mandated in the 340B program for eligible hospitals and community health centers.