May 24, 2018

Trump Assails High Drug Prices, Avoids Direct Hit on Industry

12 May 2018, 11:18 | Clyde Nash

Trump condemns middlemen in drug-pricing speech

Trump unveils prescription drugs plan

President Trump on Friday delivered a long-awaited speech outlining his administration's blueprint for lowering prescription drug prices. Instead he focuses on private competition and more openness to reduce America's prescription pain.

Trump had touted the plan as the "most sweeping action in history to lower the price of prescription drugs".

Some of the administration's longer-term priorities include restricting use of rebates, creating incentives for drugmakers to lower list prices, and investigating tools to address foreign government practices that it said could be harming innovation and driving up us prices.

Almost three-quarters of registered voters said in a recent nationwide poll that they would be more likely to support a congressional candidate this fall who supports bringing down the cost of prescription medications. Overall the Trump administration's plan to lower drug prices doesn't seem to be very damaging at the moment.

The administration will pursue a raft of old and new measures meant to improve competition and transparency in the notoriously complex drug pricing system.

"I haven't seen so far any manufacturers stepping forward to say how much they would lower prices in the USA if the United Kingdom and Germany paid more", said Allan Coukell, senior director of health programs at the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Direct the Food and Drug Administration to evaluate requiring drugmakers to state their list prices in direct-to-consumer advertisements. The plan also calls for streamlining and speeding up the approval process for over-the-counter drugs. It comes after more than a year of promises to tackle pharmacy costs that are squeezing millions of Americans. The US president condemned middlemen i.e. pharmacy benefit managers for their role in high drug prices and dropped popular and populist proposals made during his election campaign. "Trump's few tough words for pharma are a cover-up for the sweetheart deal he really is offering the megacorporations that raise prices on Americans by the day", said Peter Maybarduk, MD, director, Public Citizen's Access to Medicines program. "Trump chose the incremental over the disruptive".

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Vaidya said drug prices are lower in other countries with government-run health care because they set limits on prices.

Trump has said that drugmakers are "getting away with murder", and has expressed an interest in negotiating drug prices, something the government isn't allowed to do for Medicare and Medicaid. But as president he has shied away from major reforms and staffed his administration with appointees who have deep ties to the industry. They include Health Secretary Alex Azar, a former top executive at Eli Lilly and Co., who joined Trump for Friday's announcement.

Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, Trump said the current system has been corrupted by greedy businesses and middlemen who have made "an absolute fortune" through "dishonest double-dealing" at the expense of USA consumers who need medicine to extend or improve their lives. "Essentially, we are not seeing anything about that speech which should concern investors", Ronny Gal, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein said in a video message to investors. "Our patent system will reward innovation but won't be used as a shield to protect unfair monopolists", said Trump. "I don't want to overpromise that somehow by Monday there's going to be a radical change, but there's a deep commitment to structural change". PBMs argue that rebates are the most powerful mechanism to lower drug prices and produce valuable savings.

But others warn there is no guarantee that unraveling the current pricing-setting bureaucracy will lead to lower costs because it all starts with drugmakers' initial prices. That trend, coupled with several high-profile cases where drug manufacturers significantly raised the price for common, decades-old drugs, have thrust the issue into the national spotlight.

By the numbers, the average person in the US pays about $1,000 a year for prescription drugs.

The administration is not expected to act on a key Trump campaign pledge to use the massive buying power of the federal government's Medicare program to directly negotiate lower drug prices for seniors.

President Trump on Friday introduced his blueprint to "bring soaring drug prices back down to earth".

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