Dems accuse GOP of blocking probe into drug pricing

Dems accuse GOP of blocking probe into drug pricing

More than a dozen Democrats are accusing House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzFormer chairman appears at House Oversight contempt debate Former chairman appears at House Oversight contempt debate Republicans spend more than million at Trump properties MORE (R-Utah) of blocking an investigation into what has been described as price gouging by several U.S. drug companies.

“Over the past year, Democrats have asked you repeatedly to take action on the issue, but you have refused every request,” the Democrats, led by Ranking Member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), wrote in a letter to the chairman.

“It suggests that you believe this issue is not worth the committee’s time,” they wrote in the letter, sent Wednesday.

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The committee’s 18 Democrats are seizing on Chaffetz’s “troubling” silence the same day that some of the party’s top House leaders, including Cummings, announced a new congressional task force into drug prices.

The task force will be led by members that include top Democrats on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, Reps. Sandy Levin (Mich.), Lloyd Doggett (Texas) and Jim McDermottJames (Jim) Adelbert McDermottPromoting the voice of Korean Americans Lobbying World Dem lawmaker: Israel's accusations start of 'war on the American government' MORE (Wash.).

“Instead of setting a new record of ObamaCare assaults, this Congress ought to be looking at record drug prices,” Doggett said at a press conference at the House Triangle on Wednesday.

Democrats are trying to reset Congress’s healthcare agenda from ObamaCare to drug prices — an issue that now outranks the healthcare law as a top voter issue, according to a poll last month from the Kaiser Family Foundation.   

While Democrats have made the most noise on drug prices this year, Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates The Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates Democratic challenger to Susan Collins announces Senate bid MORE (R-Maine) announced Wednesday that she would team up with Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillConservatives spark threat of bloody GOP primaries Congress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face Lobbying world MORE (D-Mo.) to probe potentially abusive drug pricing practices.

The bipartisan duo, who lead the Senate Special Committee on Aging, are demanding documents from Valeant Pharmaceuticals, Turing Pharmaceuticals, Retrophin and Rodelis Therapeutics, after "recent and significant spikes in price."

Collins said the probe will focus on the "potential harm to patients across our country who rely on these drugs for critical care and treatment."

The backlash against drug companies is coming to a head after more than a year of friction, with headlines focused on Sovaldi hepatitis C drugs, which are draining state Medicaid budgets, and the practices at Valeant Pharmaceuticals, which precipitated a nosedive in stocks.

Most recently, the outcry has been driven by Turing Pharmaceuticals, which raised the prices of a life-saving drug, commonly used by HIV patients, more than 5,000 percent overnight.

“All of us have heard about the company that took a 62-year-old drug and raised the price overnight,” Doggett said Wednesday. “But exorbitant drug prices are not about one wrongdoer. ... They are a systemic problem that involve a wide range of manufacturers.”