Trump Is Promising To Lower Drug Prices, But Experts Doubt It Will Happen

Dan Vergano, BuzzFeed: May 11, 2018

President Trump promised to lower drug costs through more generic drugs, improved Medicare rules, and less “foreign freeloading” on US companies’ research.

President Donald Trump unveiled his “American Patients First” proposal to lower drug prices on Friday, in a long-awaited speech on an issue he campaigned on.

“We will have tough negotiations, more competition, and much lower drug prices,” said Trump in the speech held at the White House Rose Garden. “Very soon.”

Prescription drugs cost the US some $329 billion in 2016, according to federal estimates. Price hikes — for EpiPenscancer drugs, and an antiparasitic medication that jumped from $13.75 to $750 per pill — have raised the political profile of the issue.

The speech comes days after revelations that pharma behemoth Novartis paid Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, some $1.2 million last year for access to the president and his administration.

During the presidential campaign, Trump said he would force the government to negotiate lower drug prices. During his presidential transition, he said drug companies were “getting away with murder,” comments that caused panic in the industry.

In his Friday speech, he criticized pharmaceutical industry lobbying, which outmuscles many other industries, and outlined his new “blueprint” for lower drug prices. But Trump stopped short of letting the US government agencies directly negotiate drug prices, including the $675 billion Medicare program. The president described such negotiation as “foreign freeloading” when done overseas, leaving the US with the world’s highest pharmaceutical prices.

Instead, Trump focused on four areas:

—increasing the transparency of drug prices seen in ads and by Medicare patients;

—preventing the manipulation of FDA, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act drug quality rules to force cheaper drugs out of patients’ hands;

—promoting lower-cost drugs for Medicare and Medicaid patients;

—and stopping foreign countries from negotiating lower drug prices with pharma, which the administration has argued forces US consumers to pay higher prices…

And some health analysts are critical of Trump’s approach.

“The action plan is too vague. Better negotiation of prices could mean almost anything,” Diana Zuckerman, president of the nonprofit National Center for Health Research, told BuzzFeed News. Focusing on out-of-pocket patient expenses instead of lower prices for the drugs themselves will lead to higher health insurance costs, she said. For example, when drugs cost more than $100,000 per year, as many do now, taxpayers and people buying insurance bear the cost, not just the patients taking the drugs…

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