Warren presses health chief over Trump's promise of drug price cuts

Warren presses health chief over Trump's promise of drug price cuts
© Greg Nash

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenNYT editorial board endorses Warren, Klobuchar for Democratic nomination for president Trump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Biden breaks away from 2020 pack in South Carolina MORE (D-Mass.) pressed Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar on Tuesday about why no drug companies have announced price decreases despite President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Trump administration planning to crack down on 'birth tourism': report George Conway on Trump adding Dershowitz, Starr to legal team: 'Hard to see how either could help' MORE saying they would soon.

Warren focused on Trump’s statement at the end of May that "in two weeks" drug companies would "announce voluntary massive drops in prices." The two-week mark from that statement is this Wednesday.

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"He said there would be massive decreases in prices within two weeks," Warren said during a Senate Health Committee hearing. "It's been two weeks and there have been no decreases and an indication of increase."

Azar countered at the hearing that there are drug companies working on price decreases.

“There are actually several drug companies that are looking at substantial and material decreases in drug prices,” he said.

The health chief said the holdup is that negotiators known as pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) are actually discouraging price decreases because that could reduce the amount of rebates that the PBMs get.

“Oddly, the fear is that they would be discriminated against for decreasing their price,” Azar said.

Warren, a liberal champion who is a possible 2020 presidential contender, did not buy that argument, saying, “In other words, the president's promise that we would see massive decreases in two weeks hasn't happened and you don't have anyone lined up who's actually going to decrease drug prices."

The Hill reported Monday that HHS officials have been meeting with drug companies to encourage them to voluntarily reduce prices.

Azar has indicated he will act on his own if pharmaceutical companies do not agree to voluntary price decreases, but Democrats have attacked his plan as too soft on drug companies.