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.
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.
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.”
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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