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Congressman urges President Trump to take action on $90,000 MS drug

House Oversight Committee ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).
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Cummings said the president could ‘make a deal’ to lower Zinbryta’s price

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) urged President Donald Trump to help lower the price of a $90,000-a-year MS drug on Thursday.

In a series of tweets, Cummings said that Trump could “make a deal” on Biogen BIIB, +1.01%  and AbbVie’s ABBV, -0.11%  Zinbryta, because the drug was developed using technology licensed from the federal government.

“If they refuse, you can revoke their license or license the drug to more companies to lower the price today!” Cummings, who met with Trump to discuss drug prices earlier this year, said in a tweet. “Shouldn’t cost $87k per year!”

Zinbryta was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in May of 2016 for relapsing forms of MS, a degenerative disease that disrupts the central nervous system and affects about 2.3 million people worldwide.

The nonprofit Knowledge Ecology International wrote to the Department of Health and Human Services two weeks ago asking it to consider several options to lower the drug’s price, a letter that Cummings referred to on Thursday.

U.S. prices of Zinbryta are higher than those in other countries, including 2.8 times higher than Norway and Denmark and 3.8 times higher than Switzerland, according to the letter.

Under one option, called “march-in” rights, the government could revoke Zinbryta’s patent and license it to another company; the government could also simply end the license, the KEI letter said.

Cummings has previously shown interest in U.S. drug prices, meeting with Trump to discuss the subject earlier this year and launching an investigation with Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) last month into the prices of MS drugs.

Zinbryta was one of the MS drugs the congressmen referred to, alongside other Biogen drugs and products from Bayer BAYRY, +2.52% Novartis NOVN, +0.42% Roche RHHBY, +0.53% Sanofi SAN, -0.01%   and Teva TEVA, +2.56%

At least one of Zinbryta’s clinical trials was conducted by a unit of the National Institutes of Health, according to the letter, and the drug is being studied in nearly 50 clinical trials funded by the federal government.

Zinbryta “is just a really egregious example of excessive pricing,” said KEI counsel Andrew Goldman. “Trump campaigned on promises to lower the cost of drugs, so we want to hold him to that.”

KEI has not heard back from HHS since it sent the letter, Goldman said.

Biogen told MarketWatch that it has been in contact with Cummings and his staff and are cooperating with the inquiry.

While Trump spoke frequently about plans to bring down drug prices while he was campaigning, the rhetoric has largely disappeared since he took office, and many investors have stopped believing the threats.

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by MARKETWATCH
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length

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