Published: Fri, May 18, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Trump Administration's 3 Biggest Ideas For Lowering Drug Prices

Trump Administration's 3 Biggest Ideas For Lowering Drug Prices

After the unveiling of the Trump Administration's plan to lower the cost of prescription drugs, Health & Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar, provides more details on the proposal to expand Medicare drug price negotiation.

Candidate Trump promised to have the government directly negotiate drug prices for Medicare and to let American consumers import low-priced medicines from overseas. "Today's announcement from the Trump administration is a pivotal step toward ensuring that Americans have access to the medications they need, at an affordable price", Maine Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Emily Spencer said in an email to the Bangor Daily News.

Trump called out those companies in his speech: "Our plan will end the dishonest double-dealing that allows the middleman to pocket rebates and discounts that should be passed onto consumers and patients", Trump said.

Mr Trump also repeated an argument beloved of pharmaceutical companies-that foreigners are to blame for America's high prescription-drug prices.

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Azar says he wants to simplify the way Medicare pays for many drugs by moving some expensive medications that are administered in doctors' offices - like cancer drugs - into the standard Medicare prescription drug program.

"They're taking money from both sides", Azar said.

Instead, citing a "tangled web of special interests" as the premise, it only offers to fix the process at the level of the manufacturer, insurer, and pharmacy benefit manager, with wishful thinking that telling foreign governments to pay more for drugs would somehow result in lower prices in the U.S. Putting "American Patients First"?

"These are sophisticated drugs for complicated diseases", Antos said.

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But analysts caution it could lead to higher out-of-pocket costs and less choice for patients.

Some parts of the plan were previously proposed in the president's budget proposal sent to Congress, including providing free generic drugs to low-income seniors and sharing rebates from drugmakers with Medicare patients. "Some Part B drugs - many of which are infusions like chemotherapy - don't have competitors, so negotiation may not help much".

The idea of such a program isn't entirely new.

Trump's speech singled out foreign governments that "extort unreasonably low prices from US drugmakers" using price controls and said USA trade representatives would prioritize the issue in trade deals.

Mitchell and Levitt both doubt that drug companies can be shamed into lowering prices and losing profit.

That is because the price of drugs in America would remain at what the market will bear.

HHS likely has authority to pilot or experiment with limited programs, health policy experts said. "That said, they sure are talking a good game and should be given deference that action will approach rhetoric".

Azar, who came to HHS after a stint as president of the US operations of the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, opened his talk by dispensing with the industry's long-embraced argument that high prices are necessary to pay for research into future cures. At the moment it can not haggle directly with drug companies. "I can tell you I wouldn't have wanted to be the one to do that", he said. "I'm not interested in hearing those talking points anymore".

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