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GOP chairman: Drug prices 'high on our agenda'

GOP chairman: Drug prices 'high on our agenda'
© Greg Nash

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenVulnerable Republicans throw ‘Hail Mary’ on pre-existing conditions GOP senator wants Apple, Amazon to give briefing on reported Super Micro hack Overnight Health Care: Bill banning 'gag clauses' on drugs heads to Trump's desk | Romney opposes Utah Medicaid expansion | GOP candidate under fire over ad on pre-existing conditions MORE (R-Ore.) said Tuesday that dealing with high drug prices will be "high on our agenda."

The comments come after Walden attended a meeting at the White House earlier in the day with President Trump and the CEOs of several major drug companies, at which Trump pressed the companies to bring their prices down. 

However, Walden pointed to solutions that are less far-reaching than what Democrats and Trump have proposed, such as allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices. Instead, Walden said there could be legislation to speed up the Food and Drug Administration's approval process for a new competitor to a drug that currently lacks competition.

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"I can tell you, having been party to it, he had a pretty serious conversation with the CEOs of the major drug companies," Walden said of Trump. "They had some good ideas, frankly, what can be done, but he was pretty insistent the prices are too high, they've got to come down, we've got to tackle this problem together."

"So I think it's going to be high on our agenda. There are lots of ways to get at it."

Walden said that one avenue is for Trump to get results "just by having a conversation" with executives, but he also opened the door to legislation, though more modest than what many Democrats want. 

The GOP chairman said a bill could speed up the FDA approval process for a new competitor to a drug that currently lacks competition and therefore could have a price that is too high. 

"That's where we see the biggest failures, is where there's no competition," Walden said. "We may look at some legislation, that's bipartisan, that allows people to kind of jump the line if there is no competitor out there, to get an approval process sooner."

Walden said that implementing the 21st Century Cures Act, passed by Congress last year, to speed up the FDA's approval process, is also an important part of the picture. 

Trump has gone farther than most Republicans in the past on drug prices, calling for Medicare to negotiate. Trump did not directly call for that policy on Tuesday, though. 

Getting any drug pricing legislation through Congress would be a tall task, given how fraught the issue is and the resistance of many Republicans to government action on the issue.