Tom Price Profits from High Drug Prices

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who was supported in confirmation by Tennessee Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, personally intervened to protect drug companies in which he’d purchased stock, according to a new report from ProPublica.

ProPublica notes:

On March 17, 2016, Price’s broker purchased shares worth between $1,000 and $15,000 each in Eli Lilly, Amgen, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, McKesson, Pfizer and Biogen. Previous reports have noted that, a month later, Price was among lawmakers from both parties who signed onto a bill that would have blocked a rule proposed by the Obama administration, which was intended to remove the incentive for doctors to prescribe expensive drugs that don’t necessarily improve patient outcomes.

What hasn’t been previously known is Price’s personal appeal to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services about the rule, called the Medicare Part B Drug Payment Model.

The same day as the stock trade, Price’s legislative aide, Carla DiBlasio, emailed health officials to follow up on a request she had made to set up a call with Patrick Conway, the agency’s chief medical officer. In her earlier emails, DiBlasio said the call would focus on payments for joint replacement procedures. But that day, she mentioned a new issue.

“Chairman Price may briefly bring up … his concerns about the new Part B drug demo, as well,” she wrote. “Congressman Price really appreciates the opportunity to have an open conversation with Dr. Conway, so we really appreciate you keeping the lines of communication open.”

Tom Price was building a portfolio of drug company stock at the same time he was intervening directly and personally to ensure company profits (and stock prices) remained high.

This type of ethical lapse is unacceptable. Questions were raised about Price’s inappropriate relationship with drug companies during his hearings, but despite those concerns, he was quickly approved with the support of both Alexander and Corker.

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