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. (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.”
“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. (D-Md.), (D-Vt.), and others joined Sen. (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.”