Drug Prices: Trump Details Multipart Strategy

Trump is about to lay out his plans to lower drug prices — here's what to expect

The Department of Health and Human Services has over 50 actions in a blueprint that hits on four strategies to increase competition and negotiations, and give incentives to lower list prices and out-of-pocket costs, said HHS Secretary Alex Azar, a former executive for Eli Lilly.

Medicare is the largest purchaser of prescription drugs in the nation, covering 60 million seniors and Americans with disabilities, but it is barred by law from directly negotiating lower prices with drugmakers.

The White House has posted a list of specific proposals for controlling drug prices here. In Part B plans administered by physicians, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services pays the list price plus a markup.

"Today's proposal is an empty gesture that will not meaningfully reduce the cost of prescription drugs for everyday families", said Rep.

In a speech in the White House Rose Garden, Trump said his administration was "putting American patients first". Aetna and UnitedHealth, for example, have said they will make similar changes to some plans they offer employers.

But Express Scripts Inc., a St. Louis-based PBM that's being acquired by Cigna Corp., praised the administration's proposals. "It is a comprehensive process...and it will take time to reorder an entire complex multibillion dollar system of our economy", Azar said.

As a candidate, Trump railed against the pharmaceutical industry.

Even Trump's tough talk about going after other nations that negotiate lower prices for their citizens - which the president labeled "free loading" - was accompanied only by instructions to his trade negotiators to raise this issue in talks with USA trading partners.

A majority of Americans say passing laws to bring down prescription drug prices should be a top priority for Trump and Congress, according to recent polling by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But This Might Be About Politics More Than Results: "The president's tough talk on drug prices will no doubt be popular with the public". Roughly 30% of the dollar value of prescriptions filled in the U.S.is paid for by Medicare, making the US government the single biggest customer for pharmaceuticals by a wide margin.

Drugmakers generally can charge as much as the market will bear because the USA government doesn't regulate medicine prices, unlike most other developed countries. This will also be a big win for patients and a direct rebuke to pharmaceutical manufacturers who have been driving up the cost of drugs in recent years.

Some more substantive changes are contemplated by the blueprint, although the document didn't lay out any concrete steps for how to achieve them.

Indeed, despite Trump's consistent rhetoric about pharmaceutical companies "getting away with murder", the administration hasn't taken action on drugmakers, which have so far largely benefited from his administration.

"I think it's more bark than bite", said Bettelheim.

The pharmaceutical industry has spent heavily this year on lobbying the federal government, perhaps with Trump's twice-delayed drug pricing plan in mind.

"It's hard to know why Germany or France of Australia would agree to something like that", said Professor Jack Hoadley of Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute. "While Trump campaigned on a promise to take on prescription drug prices, all he has done since taking office is conspire with Congressional Republicans to shower drug companies with billions of dollars in tax breaks that ballooned the national debt". The annual total was a record for the group.

Of note, the President's plan also bans the Pharmacist Gag Rule, which punishes pharmacists for telling patients how to save money.



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