Key House Dem: I don't want to 'punish' drug companies

Key House Dem: I don't want to 'punish' drug companies
© Greg Nash

A key Democrat on drug pricing issues said Wednesday that she does not want to “punish” the pharmaceutical industry, striking a softer tone than many other Democrats do on the issue.

Rep. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooHouse Democrats probe Trump administration's funding of anti-abortion group Cuts to Medicare and Medicaid will cause overall health-care costs to rise Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — FDA issues proposal to limit sales of flavored e-cigs | Trump health chief gets grilling | Divisions emerge over House drug pricing bills | Dems launch investigation into short-term health plans MORE (D-Calif.), the new chairwoman of the powerful Energy and Commerce health subcommittee, has received criticism from some drug pricing advocates that she is too close to the pharmaceutical industry.  

Asked about the criticism on Wednesday and if she would be tough on drug companies, Eshoo told reporters, “I'm going to be fair. I'm not out to punish or to do things out of vengeance.”

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“I want the best policy that we can come up with that's really terrific for the American people; that’s my goal,” she added.

While some other House Democrats are pushing for sweeping legislation to attack drug prices, such as allowing Medicare to negotiate prices, Eshoo is treading more carefully.  

Asked if she wanted to move legislation to address drug prices, Eshoo said, “I think we need to examine it first.”

“How do we know what the answer to something is if we don't see the entirety of the issue that you want to do something about,” she continued.

Meanwhile, other Democrats are pushing stronger action. Reps. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsDem lawmaker: 'Quite clear' Trump committed impeachable offenses Cummings on impeachment: 'We may very well come to that' Democrats should be careful wielding more investigations MORE (D-Md.), Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchBooker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements Divisions emerge over House drug price bills Trump CFO Weisselberg emerges as key person of interest for Dems MORE (D-Vt.), and others joined Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersResurfaced Buttigieg yearbook named him 'most likely to be president' On The Money: House Dem says marijuana banking bill will get vote in spring | Buttigieg joins striking Stop & Shop workers | US home construction slips in March | Uber gets B investment for self-driving cars Buttigieg joins striking Stop & Shop workers MORE (I-Vt.) last week to unveil three sweeping bills, including a bill to strip monopolies from drug companies if their prices are above the average price in other wealthy countries.

A leading drug pricing advocacy group, Patients for Affordable Drugs Now, ran ads against Eshoo last year, saying she was “in the pocket of Big Pharma.”

Ben Wakana, the group’s executive director, pushed back on Eshoo’s call on Wednesday to “examine” the issue before acting.

“We don’t need more hearings to study the problem,” Wakana wrote in an email. “We need to advance legislation that the American people overwhelmingly support and Congress was elected to deliver: Reforms to fix a rigged system, break the monopoly pricing power of drug corporations and protect Americans from Big Pharma’s price gouging.”