President Trump aiming to lower prescription drug prices

Gladys Abbott
May 17, 2018

Updating trade policies between the U.S. and other countries: President Trump said, medicine that costs a few dollars in a foreign country costs hundreds of dollars in America for the same pill, with the same ingredients, in the same package, made in the same plant.

On Friday, President Donald Trump gave a long-anticipated speech on soaring prescription drug prices that made clear he will not take any significant action to address the issue, despite his populist rhetoric.

But the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA), a trade group representing PBMs, pushed back, saying that getting rid of rebates and other price concessions would leave patients and payers at the mercy of drug manufacturer pricing strategies.

The Hill's Peter Sullivan noted on Twitter that CVS Health didn't express negativity either: "Nothing critical in PBM CVS Health's statement: "Policy solutions that lower drug prices for consumers and reduce out-of-pocket costs are aligned with CVS Health's business model and would not be expected to have a negative impact on profitability".

The administration also released a 44-page blueprint of the plan, entitled American Patients First.

Azar said that importing drugs from overseas was a gimmick because there was no way to ensure the drugs weren't counterfeit and "Canada's drug market is simply too small to bring down prices here".

"It was actually much less bold than what we're talking about".

Azar's list of proposals, which will likely be the subject of considerable lobbying with Congress, includes overturning the cap lawmakers put in place on penalties for raising drug prices beyond the rate of inflation - a common industry practice for years.

"We look forward to working with industry to build a better system", he said.

Trump in his speech hit out at foreign governments alleging free-riding off of American investment in innovation.

"In some cases medicine that costs a few dollars in a foreign country costs hundreds of dollars in America for the same pill, with the same ingredients, in the same package, made in the same plant and that is unacceptable". "It's unfair and it's ridiculous, and it's not going to happen any longer". Others, including those representing insurers, physicians, pharmacists and hospitals, blamed drugmakers for the problem.

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"US has highest healthcare costs in the world and United States needs to study German, UK & Scandinavian (relatively lower cost) healthcare models to drive down Healthcare in U.S. and not blame it as a cost of cross subsidising other developing countries healthcare costs", said Rajiv Nath, Forum Coordinator of AiMeD - the trade body of Indian medical devices companies".

The blueprint also includes budget proposals to lower drug prices.

During Trump's tenure, administration officials have provided some insights into how they intend to address the cost of prescription medicines.

Trump did not talk about price negotiations through the Medicare program, despite the fact that it had been one of his selling points when he was campaigning for the Presidency. Drug companies, however, have lobbied hard to prevent government involvement, and Republicans have generally not supported such a proposal.

Sanders went a step further, declaring that Trump "has become a supporter of the pharmaceutical industry's extraordinary greed". "More broadly, the president has called for me to merge Medicare Part B into Part D, where negotiation has been so successful".

The relative size of Canada's drug market is the main reason why drug importation isn't part of the US plan, Azar said.

Currently, any medications a manufacturer includes in the federal Medicaid drug rebate program are automatically on the formulary.

"Canada simply doesn't have enough drugs to sell them to us for less money, and drug companies won't sell Canada or Europe more just to have them imported here", he explained.

Consider sharing of samples needed for generic drug development; Promote the use of biosimilars. "When foreign governments extort unreasonably low prices from U.S. drug makers, Americans have to pay more to subsidise the enormous cost of research and development", Trump said. The Part B proposal could hit drugmakers, but that depends on administrators' willingness to buck industry, she said.

While lawmakers continue to shape health care policy, it is important to both change what doesn't work and keep what does.

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