Democrats seek Trump's cooperation on drug price reform

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a USA Thank You Tour event in Hershey, Pennsylvania, U.S., December 15, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A group of Democratic senators took their plans to tackle rising drug costs to President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday, asking him to work with them and Republicans on the issue.

In a letter dated Tuesday, the 19 senators named five areas for cooperation: allowing the Medicare program to negotiate prescription prices, increasing transparency, stopping abusive pricing, passing reform on incentives for innovation and supporting generic competition for branded drugs.

Trump’s focus during the presidential election campaign was not on drug prices but on his promise to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, President Barack Obama’s signature health reform law passed by Democrats in 2010.

But he did talk about allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, which is currently prohibited by law, and importing cheaper drugs from other countries. Since elected, Trump promised in an interview with Time magazine that “I’m going to bring down drug prices” but did not say how.

In the letter led by Senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Al Franken of Minnesota and co-signed by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren among others, the group suggested that there would be opportunities in Congress for Trump to steer bipartisan reform.

It suggested that the Prescription Drug, Generic Drug, and Biosimilars User Fee Agreement reauthorization, due to be passed in the spring, and “other health-related legislative priorities” would be good opportunities.

Republicans have a majority in Congress and is working on a two-part plan to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, according to Republican senators. The repeal would take place through the budget reconciliation process, which can pass with 51 votes. For replacement legislation, some Republican senators have said they may seek Democratic support in order to have bipartisan legislation with 60 votes.

Reporting by Caroline Humer; Editing by Cynthia Osterman