Two Re­pub­li­can law­mak­ers feel 'oblig­ed' to warn drug­mak­ers that De­mo­c­rat col­league Cum­mings is pur­port­ed­ly out to de­flate their stock prices

The pro­lif­ic chair­man of the Com­mit­tee on Over­sight and Re­form Eli­jah Cum­mings kicked off an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to “sky­rock­et­ing” drug prices in the Unit­ed States — a con­tentious is­sue that has sparked bi­par­ti­san furor — when he sent in­quiries to a dozen ma­jor drug­mak­ers seek­ing in­for­ma­tion on pric­ing prac­tices this Jan­u­ary. But it looks like two of his Re­pub­li­can col­leagues are not im­pressed with the probe, in­sin­u­at­ing that the De­mo­c­rat sen­a­tor is col­lect­ing “sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion” to bring down phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal stock prices.

Jim Jor­dan

The two rank­ing de­trac­tors, Jim Jor­dan and Mark Mead­ows — lead­ers of the con­ser­v­a­tive House Free­dom Cau­cus — last week sent across let­ters to the same slate of drug­mak­ers Cum­mings con­tact­ed, say­ing they felt “oblig­ed” to in­form the com­pa­nies that Cum­mings has pre­vi­ous­ly re­leased “sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion uni­lat­er­al­ly” as part of sep­a­rate in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Jor­dan and Mead­ows ac­cused Cum­mings of seek­ing sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion in this in­stance that would “like­ly harm the com­pet­i­tive­ness of your com­pa­ny if dis­closed pub­licly,” ac­cus­ing the chair of “boast­ing” about the “as­tro­nom­i­cal” im­pact on stock prices the probe has had.

This charge is based on an in­com­plete, out-of-con­text quote from Cum­mings sup­plied by Jor­dan and Mead­ows in their let­ter, as un­der­scored by Buz­zFeed.

Mark Mead­ows

In their let­ter, the Re­pub­li­can law­mak­ers quote Cum­mings flag­ging the work of his staffers, os­ten­si­bly called the “drug team” that has been work­ing on drug costs: “If you fol­low the head­lines, we have al­ready seen the im­pact they have had… on stock prices with re­gard to drugs. I mean, it has been as­tro­nom­i­cal.”

But their let­ter does not of­fer con­text that at the time, Cum­mings was re­quest­ing for more funds for the Com­mit­tee on Over­sight and Re­form, which Jor­dan, as the rank­ing Over­sight Re­pub­li­can, ob­ject­ed to. Their let­ter al­so failed to men­tion that Cum­mings did not fin­ish his sen­tence at “as­tro­nom­i­cal”; he went on to say “…as­tro­nom­i­cal, sav­ing the tax­pay­ers mon­ey,” and lat­er added that what­ev­er funds his com­mit­tee were to re­ceive, it will be re­turned “in sav­ings by root­ing out fraud, waste, and abuse.”

Eli­jah Cum­mings

In­stead, Jor­dan and Mead­ows made clear in their let­ter that Cum­ming’s com­mit­tee should not em­bark up­on an “par­ti­san” in­ves­ti­ga­tion en­gi­neered to neg­a­tive­ly im­pact stock prices, al­though “we can­not spec­u­late about Chair­man Cum­mings’ mo­tives.”

Da­ta show that de­spite the high­er cost of health­care borne by the Unit­ed States, the coun­try ac­tu­al­ly per­forms worse across var­i­ous health mea­sures ver­sus a num­ber of oth­er high-in­come na­tions. Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent Politi­co/Har­vard poll, an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­i­ty of Amer­i­cans ranked ad­dress­ing the cost of med­i­cines as a top pri­or­i­ty for the new Con­gress.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has pro­posed steps to curb prices, and var­i­ous law­mak­ers have al­so made it a cor­ner­stone is­sue, in­clud­ing Sen­a­tor Chuck Grass­ley, the new chair of the Sen­ate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee, and pres­i­den­tial hope­ful Sen­a­tor Eliz­a­beth War­ren.

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