Tina Smith

United States Senator for Minnesota

Sens. Warren, Smith Seek Explanation for HHS Secretary Azar's Misleading Testimony on President Trump's Broken Drug Pricing Promises

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Letter Follows Up on August Letter Questioning Azar about Blaming PBMs and Drug Distributors for High Drug Prices

Washington, DC - United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) today sent their second letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar about his potentially misleading statements during Senate testimony in which he blamed pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and drug distributors for drug manufacturers' ongoing refusal to meaningfully reduce their prices.

On May 30, 2018, President Trump promised that drug companies would "announce voluntary massive drops in prices." In a June hearing in front of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Senator Warren asked Secretary Azar to explain why drug prices remained high despite President Trump's assurances of massive price reductions. In response, Secretary Azar repeatedly blamed PBMs and drug distributors - not drug manufacturers - alleging that drug manufacturers were "finding hurdles" from PBMs and drug distributors that were preventing them from enacting voluntary price cuts.

The Senators investigated Secretary Azar's allegations, writing to every major PBM and drug distributor, and found no evidence they were blocking manufacturer efforts to lower prices.  In August 2018, they sent a letter to the Secretary asking for an explanation of why he appeared to mislead the Committee by blaming PBMs and drug distributors for drug manufacturers' refusal to cut their high drug prices. Sec. Azar's inadequate response gave no explanation for why he misled Congress.

"Your response...raises even more questions about whether you provided truthful testimony to the Senate in June," the senators wrote in the new letter. "Specifically, your response provides no factual basis for your June 2018 testimony before the Senate; in fact, your response appears to be - with no explanation - a significant departure from that testimony, in which you blamed PBMs and drug distributors for the failure of the pharmaceutical industry to voluntarily reduce prices."

The senators' new seven-page letter reiterates concerns about the Secretary's misleading testimony, and his interactions with the pharmaceutical industry. The letter highlights President Trump's broken promises on drug pricing, the Administration's industry-friendly drug pricing plan, and Secretary Azar's own ties to the drug industry. 

"The American public deserves answers about why President Trump - despite his big promises on drug pricing - has accomplished nothing," the senators continued. "And they deserve to know why you have not been forthcoming about the reasons for this failure."

In a series of questions, the senators pressed Secretary Azar for a full and complete explanation about why he provided the inaccurate testimony in the first place.  The senators are seeking answers to their questions by no later than November 7, 2018.

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