Democrats are accusing a major pharmaceutical company of trying to influence the Trump administration’s plan to lower drug prices.
Emails obtained by Democrats and publicly released Friday show that Novartis sent Michael Cohen, a former lawyer for President TrumpDonald John TrumpGiuliani: Trump interview with Mueller ‘further away’ ACLU calls for Trump officials to hand over info on immigrant children Kushner to join Pompeo for meetings with Mexican leaders MORE , a list of proposals to lower drug prices.
Several of those proposals later appeared in the administration’s “blue print” to lower drug prices.
In an email dated June 5, 2017, ex-Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez sent Cohen an email with a document attached called “drug pricing initiatives.”
“Based on our conversation last week, I am forwarding you some ideas to lower drug costs in the US,” Jimenez wrote.
Cohen responded a few hours later: “Received and I will forward to you their suggestions.”
Several of the recommendations later ended up in the administration’s blueprint, which was released in May. Those included proposals to speed up the approval of generic drugs and reforming the rebate system between pharmacy benefit managers and drug manufacturers.
Novartis previously acknowledged a $1.2 million agreement with Cohen last year. Cohen allegedly promised the company access to the Trump administration.
Novartis said it ended the relationship with Cohen in March 2017, but Democrats say new documents show communication continued until September.
“These documents indicate that Mr. Cohen and Mr. Jimenez – who was still the Novartis CEO at the time – had at least four phone calls, and, between April and September 2017, exchanged multiple emails on substantive issues, including the Trump administration’s drug pricing proposals, Novartis’s potential investment in a small drug company backed by Columbus Nova, and with regard to opioid lawsuits,” according to the report.
Democrats have characterized the relationship as Cohen capitalizing on his ability to offer companies access to Trump administration officials.
Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis, a contributor to The Hill, said in a statement to ABC that Cohen provided “strategic advice” and did not “sell access.”
Novartis spokesman Eric Althoff said Jimenez provided Cohen with a list of “well-known ideas for lowering the cost of pharmaceuticals that had been discussed publicly in the industry.”
Althoff also said the company disagrees with the report’s conclusion that Novartis misled the public about the extent of its engagement with Cohen.
“As the documents we produced show, Novartis had [its] one and only meeting with Mr. Cohen on March 1, 2017, and then concluded he was not able to provide the substantive consulting advice and insight for which he was hired. We never asked Mr. Cohen to perform any services on our behalf after , nor did he perform any,” he said.