With Trump's avowed interest inseeing the cost of prescriptions cut, a Democratic laser focus onthe issue could actually bring about legislation to bring down drugprices. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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Democratic gains in the midterms could finally bring action ondrug pricing—and the pharmaceutical industry is worried.

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While there's still the chance of gridlock, thanks to a still-Republican-ledSenate and an intractable president, Democrats—and RepresentativeElijah Cummings, D-Maryland, now set to become the head of theHouse Oversight and Government Reform Committee—have theopportunity to flex some muscle on the issue. And that's somethingCummings has already engaged in, albeit without the power behind itto make more change than noise.

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Related: Pharma balks at proposal to list drug prices in TVads

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The Hill reports that there's now actually a chance forbipartisan action on drug pricing, and with Trump's avowed interestin seeing the cost of prescriptions cut, a Democratic laser focuson the issue could actually bring about legislation.

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It still remains to be seen whether Dems will be able to pushpast the drug lobby and any sympathetic ears in the Senate to takea bill all the way home, particularly if Trump decides to push backagainst any potential investigations of his own actions, but ifCummings has anything to do with it, Big Pharma may have more toworry about than hearings and complaints.

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The report says, “In the majority, [Democrats] will be now ableto conduct investigations into industry pricing practices and hauldrug company executives in to testify,” which could give thosecompanies a little more of a distraction than such concerns have inthe past. And Stat News reports that Cummings' presence on thecommittee has already locked horns with pharma companies from Mylanto Valeant to Biogen and berated Martin Shkreli for aless-than-respectful attitude during a hearing.

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One possibility that could finally see real action in aDemocratic-led Congress is a move to allow drug importation;another is allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices. Trump haspreviously expressed support for such strategies, although hehasn't done anything to push them along since taking office.

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But although Cummings will have plenty of other responsibilitiesheading up the oversight committee, it appears that change on thepharma front may finally be on the agenda—even if it manifests as“smaller drug pricing actions [that] could be attached to largerbills, such as must-pass spending legislation,” as pointed out byThe Hill.

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Marlene Satter

Marlene Y. Satter has worked in and written about the financial industry for decades.