Trump Targets Drug Prices, Right-to-Try in State of the Union

President Donald Trump returned to a popular campaign theme in Tuesday’s State of the Union address when he vowed to bring down the high cost of prescription drugs. But Trump’s only specific solution—calling on Congress to pass a right-to-try law—doesn’t address the broader problem affecting millions of Americans: the annual increases of necessary drugs for chronic conditions, such as insulin for diabetes or anti-inflammatory biologics for rheumatoid arthritis.

“There’s certainly been a gap between rhetoric and reality,” John Rother, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Health Care (NCHC), told The American Journal of Managed Care®in an interview.

Previously, NCHC ran the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing, which did extensive polling during the 2016 election cycle on Americans’ views on prescription drug pricing. Rother agreed with the overnight observation that the president highlighted the issue for a convenient reason: the president’s own poll numbers are not good, and polls still show Americans are frustrated with high drug prices. A poll taken last fall by the Harvard School of Public Health found that 40% of Americans want Congress to bring down prescription drug prices—a higher score than any other issue surveyed, according to POLITICO.

“One of my greatest priorities is to reduce the price of prescription drugs,” Trump said Tuesday night. “In many other countries, these drugs cost far less than what we pay in the United States. That is why I have directed my administration to make fixing the injustice of high drug prices one of our top priorities. Prices will come down.”

He called on Congress to pass so-called right-to-try legislation, which allows patients to bypass FDA’s Expanded Access program and go straight to the pharmaceutical companies to purchase investigational medications if they are facing a terminal disease. Several states have passed their own versions of right-to-try laws. Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Health Research and a board member of the Reagan-Udall Foundation, told attendees at Patient-Centered Oncology Care® in November 2017 that the Right-to-Try bill that has passed the Senate has far fewer requirements than the FDA’s Expanded Access program; and there are concerns that patients taking these drugs will not track adverse effects, which could threaten the current system of drug development. […]

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