On Friday, President Trump is giving his first speech on an overarching plan to lower drug prices. Administration officials previewing the speech Thursday touted it as the most comprehensive plan to tackle prescription drug costs that any president has ever proposed, but offered few specifics. There is no timeline to implement the president’s proposals.
Before taking office last January, Mr. Trump railed against the pharmaceutical industry and accused it of “getting away with murder.” He repeated those words at a Cabinet meeting in October.
“The other thing we’re doing that relates to people’s lives is the prescription drug prices are out of control,” Mr. Trump said in October. “The drug prices have gone through the roof. And if you look at the same exact drug by the same exact company, made in the same exact box and sold someplace else, sometimes it’s a fraction of what we pay in this country — meaning, as usual, the world is taking advantage of the United States. They’re setting prices in other countries and we’re not.”
The populist rhetoric appears to be giving way to a more nuanced strategy focused on making the pharmaceutical market more open and competitive, with the aim of lowering costs for consumers. It’s an approach that could avoid a direct confrontation with the powerful pharmaceutical lobby, but it could also underwhelm Americans seeking relief from escalating prescription costs.
Officials said the plan would increase competition, create incentives for drugmakers to lower initial prices and slash federal rules that make it harder for private insurers to negotiate lower prices. The result would be lower pharmacy costs for patients — a key Trump campaign promise.
The plan will not include giving the federal Medicare program power to directly negotiate prices with drugmakers, they noted. Trump campaigned on the idea, which is vigorously opposed by the pharmaceutical industry.
Public outrage over drug costs has been growing for years, because Americans are being squeezed in a number of ways: New medicines for cancer and other life-threatening diseases often launch with prices exceeding $100,000 per year. Drugs for common ailments like diabetes and asthma routinely see price hikes around 10 percent annually. Meanwhile some companies have been buying up once-cheap older drugs and hiking prices by 1,000 percent or more.
Since entering the White House, Mr. Trump has backed away from reforms directly targeting drugmakers and staffed his administration with appointees who have deep ties to the industry, including his health secretary, Alex Azar, a former top executive at Eli Lilly.
Still, administration officials ratcheted up the rhetoric ahead of Mr. Trump’s speech. Azar promised bold action. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb — another Trump appointee with industry connections — hinted at a plan to “dismantle” the convoluted system of discounts and rebates between drugmakers and health care middlemen.
Members of Congress benefit heavily from the pharmaceutical industry’s donations. Top drug companies have donated millions to campaigns and candidates so far in the 2018 election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) records.
On Thursday, administration officials also vowed to address foreign governments that rely on U.S. medicines but pay drastically lower prices due to government controls. The U.S. accounts for 70 percent of the world’s brand-name drug profits, according to a White House report released earlier this year.
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Source: CBS News