Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Bill Cassidy headshots
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) (left), is the new chair of the Senate HELP Committee and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) is its new ranking Republican.

Bernie Sanders Officially Named Chair and Bill Cassidy Ranking Republican of Senate HELP Panel

The U.S. Senate committee with jurisdiction over 340B is officially under new leadership, with Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) being seated as Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions chair last week and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) as ranking Republican.

The formal announcements had been delayed for a month.

Sanders told The Washington Post last month he plans to move “very aggressively” on the high cost of prescription drugs. He has said little publicly the 340B program. In September 2020, he signed a Senate Democratic letter to Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) President Stephen Ubl expressing “deep concern” over drug manufacturers’ denials or impositions of conditions on 340B pricing on drugs dispensed by contract pharmacies.

Cassidy, a gastroenterologist, is a longtime critic of 340B hospitals. Regarding drug costs, he recently told the Post, “We have to understand that there is a component of innovation driven by profit. And that’s why I’m seeing people alive that would not be alive were it not for that innovation.”

The HELP Committee announced its members on its website Feb. 2, 11 Democrats and 10 Republicans. Excluding Sanders and Cassidy, they are:


Patty Murray (Wash.)
Robert Casey (Pa.)
Tammy Baldwin (Wis.)
Christopher Murphy (Conn.)
Tim Kaine (D-VA)
Maggie Hassan (N.H.)
Tina Smith (Minn.)
Ben Ray Lujan (N.M.)
John Hickenlooper (Colo.)
Ed Markey (Mass.)


Rand Paul (Ky.)
Susan Collins (Maine)
Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)
Mike Braun (Ind.)
Roger Marshall (Kan.)
Mitt Romney (Utah)
Tommy Tuberville (Ala.)
Markwayne Mullin (Okla.)
Ted Budd (N.C.)

340B Report Publisher and CEO Ted Slafsky said in a recent column for Verity Solutions that Sanders “will not be afraid to call in drug industry executives to grill them on their decision to restrict or cut off 340B pricing to contract pharmacies.” He added, “Cassidy, who has a strong relationship with the drug industry, will push Chairman Sanders to address the issues brought up in the recent news investigations and will use his power as ranking member to increase 340B oversight.”

“While Sanders and Cassidy are not likely to agree on much in the health care area, they could become strange bedfellows over certain aspects of 340B reform,” Slafsky said. “This could include requiring hospitals to be more transparent in how they are using their 340B savings as well as potentially imposing new limits on program growth and the amount that 340B providers can charge certain patients for their medications.”

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