WASHINGTON – In a hearing Friday, House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings told a panel of witnesses who said they cannot afford their prescription medication that he plans to take pharma executives to task when the House reconvenes after its August recess.
“We’re going to have the drug company folks sitting in the same seats as soon as we come back,” he said, “And we’re going to try to understand some of why they’re doing what they’re doing.”
The Democratic congressman who has been a vocal critic of the Trump administration shared something he agrees with the president on, “The first conversation that I had with President Trump he said, ‘The drug companies are getting away with murder.’ And he’s right,'” Cummings said.
North Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Meadows arrived late to the hearing and apologized saying, “I was at the White House working on prescription drug prices. This is bringing a number of us together from opposite sides of the aisle.”
Testimony from an Indianapolis woman with diabetes who said she has to ration her doses of insulin with her diabetic sister because they can’t afford the $1,000 a month price of the prescription drug moved Reps. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich, to tears.
“My sister and I have been fighting for our lives since we were children and it has not been easy,” Sa’Ra Skipper told the committee. “I’m 23 years old, and I’m tired,” she said.
Skipper said her sister went into diabetic ketoacidosis and almost ended up in a diabetic coma from improperly rationing insulin.
“I can’t tell you the last time that I filled a prescription for my insulin,” Skipper told Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley, saying she gets donations of the medication from her community and “guesstimates” how long the supply lasts.
The escalation of prescription prices by drug companies is a focus for Cummings. In January, the committee launched a comprehensive investigation into the drug industry’s pricing practices, examining documents from drug companies.
“The federal government bears much of the financial burden of escalating drug prices through Medicare Part D, which provides drug coverage to approximately 43 million people,” according to the House Oversight and Reform committee.
On Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee approved a bill that would reduce the cost of drugs for Medicare and Medicaid recipients.