Democrats vow to tackle drug prices after midterm victory

Drug companies could come under increased pressure to lower prices in the US, after the opposition Democrat party won control over the lower house in midterm elections.

All the seats in the House of Representatives and a third of the seats in the Senate were up for grabs in the vote seen as a referendum on Donald Trump’s controversial presidency.

The Democrats secured a majority in the Senate, but did not manage to win control of the Senate after the Republican party kept key seats in Indiana, Texas and North Dakota.

During the presidential elections two years ago, the traditionally more left-leaning Democrat party was almost aligned with Trump when he called for tough action against the price of drugs in the US.

The issue is particularly vexed in the US, where patients may have to contribute to the cost of their medication out of their own pocket, depending on their insurance arrangements.

Despite some strong rhetoric from Trump, tough legislative measures against drug companies have failed to materialise.

Trump last month signed two pieces of legislation including measures requiring pharmacists to tell patients if there is a low-cost alternative to a branded drug.

These measures were part of Trump’s blueprint published in May to lower drug prices by increasing competition, cutting regulations and changing incentives for those in the pharma industry.

But the Democrats think that the plan is not sufficient, and aim to fight some of the measures introduced by Trump’s American Healthcare Act, which partially repealed healthcare reforms introduced by his predecessor Barack Obama.

Democrat Nancy Pelosi, leader of the House of Representatives, said: “It’s about stopping the GOP and (Republican Senator) Mitch McConnell’s assault on Medicare and Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act and the healthcare of 130 million Americans living with pre-existing medical conditions. Let’s hear it for pre-existing medical conditions!”

She added: “We will take real, very strong legislative action to negotiate down the price control of prescription drugs that is burdening seniors and families across America.”

President Trump’s press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president will “work with whoever comes into office” ahead of the announcement of the results.

The results prompted a typically pithy response from Trump on twitter:

One result of interest to the pharma industry was in New Jersey – Bob Hugin, former CEO of Celgene, was running to become Republican Senator there, but was beaten by Democrat rival Bob Menendez.

Shares in major US drug companies such as Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck & Co. ticked down slightly in pre-market trading following the results.

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