Trump meets with drug industry lobby as pricing bill advances

President Donald Trump met with representatives of the drug industry’s trade group at the White House on Wednesday, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The person, who asked not to be identified because the meeting was private, said that the president made no commitments during the discussion with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. The person said the session took place at the request of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican.

The meeting, which was reported earlier Wednesday by Politico, occurred as a bipartisan effort is underway in the Senate that two of its sponsors say would lead to $100 billion in savings on prescription-drug spending over a decade. Those savings would come about, in part, by penalizing pharmaceutical companies for raising prices faster than the rate of inflation.

Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for PhRMA, did not immediately respond late Wednesday to requests for comment on the meeting.

The measure, advanced by the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Finance Committee, Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Ron Wyden of Oregon, is expected to be taken up by that panel later this week. It could face opposition from drug-industry lobbyists and other lawmakers.

On Tuesday, Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, said that the Trump administration “was encouraged by the bipartisan work of Chairman Grassley and Senator Wyden to craft a comprehensive package to lower outrageously high drug prices, and today we are engaging with coalitions to help build support.”

Drug industry groups and some lawmakers, however, say that the legislation would go too far in limiting drugmakers’ discretion to set prices, and wouldn’t do enough to aid consumers.

PhRMA, which represents some of the largest drugmakers, said it opposed the bill. The group’s chief executive, Stephen Ubl, said the measure “would siphon more than $150 billion from researching and developing new medicines.”

Getting drug prices under control has been a top priority of the Trump administration and lawmakers of both parties, but action so far has been limited. Last week, the White House pulled back a proposal that would have curbed rebates paid to drug plan middlemen, and earlier this week Democrats in the House said they would put off debate on a drug-price bill until September.

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