Trump unveils plan to reduce drug prices

President Donald Trump speaks during a roundtable discussion on tax reform at the Cleveland Public Auditorium in Cleveland Ohio U.S

Watching from the crowd was Sen. He said it would take years to restructure the us drug system. Cassidy, who worked as a Baton Rouge physician before entering politics, joined a bipartisan group of senators pushing to outlaw the clauses in March. Democrats have long favored giving Medicare that power, but Republicans traditionally oppose the idea. And it's also still unclear how those changes will help the roughly 160 million Americans with private insurance. But most of the measures could take months or years to implement, and none would directly stop drugmakers from setting sky-high initial prices.

Alongside the speech, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rolled out the American Patients First plan, framed as a blueprint for progress toward realizing the president's pledge, pull-quoted for emphasis, that "prices will come down". "Health policy experts like this idea because it reduces the burden on patients with serious chronic illnesses and spreads the expense of needed medications across the entire insured population", The New York Times said. This means that the large generic companies in the U.S. will see higher competition from the small generic companies.

"I'm excited", Cassidy said.

"What other countries do is what the Veterans Administration here does", said David Blumenthal, president of the Commonwealth Fund. Unwinding those incentives requires structural changes to the market, Cassidy said.

The administration official said that in addition to building from ideas in Trump's budget, the blueprint would outline four strategies - most of which could be achieved without new legislation.

It's an approach that avoids a direct confrontation with the powerful pharmaceutical lobby, but it could also underwhelm Americans seeking relief from escalating prescription costs.

Instead of making medicines less accessible for people around the world struggling to afford their own health care, the White House should do three things: "challenge the industry with full negotiation powers for Medicare, block price spikes and curb monopoly abuse". "If they don't address the cost that patients see at the pharmacy counter it's not going to be seen as responsive".

Later in January, Trump met with the heads of pharma companies, where he reiterated his interest in bringing drug prices down in the US.

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As a candidate, Trump railed against the pharmaceutical industry. But as president he has shied away from major changes and has staffed his administration with appointees who have deep ties to the industry. That includes Azar, a former top executive at Eli Lilly.

Azar and other Trump officials have described the problem in stark terms and promised bold action. But the plan released Friday called for only a limited version involving Part D.

He also took aim at small pharmaceutical companies who buy up off-patent generic drugs and raise the prices sharply.

The blueprint, which echoes numerous ideas first put forward in Trump's FY 2019 proposed budget and the White House Council of Economic Advisers drug pricing report, focuses on four areas: lowering high list prices set by manufacturers; equipping government and private payers with new tools to negotiate prices; lowering out-of-pocket costs for consumers and taking steps to stop other countries from "freeloading" off of American innovation.

Public outrage over drug costs has been growing for years as Americans face pricing pressure from all sides: New medicines for life-threatening diseases often launch with prices exceeding $100,000 per year. The government may ask the drug makers to disclose prices in their TV advertising.

"We support the administration's efforts to tackle out-of-control drug costs, which include addressing the root cause: skyrocketing list prices set by pharmaceutical companies", Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini said in a statement following the president's address. Despite Trump's comments about "eliminating the middlemen", an apparent reference to PBMs, stocks of these companies also rose. "We've got to figure out ways to move those drugs into private Part D negotiations so we can. start getting bargains for seniors and taxpayers". Azar and Trump didn't mention that specific program Friday, but Cassidy said it's another example of discounts that don't end up saving patients money.

Vt. Sen. Patrick Leahy said, "Today's announcement was more of the same- a flurry of soothing words and wheel spinning, and no willingness or courage to take on price gouging and anti-competitive behavior by the giant drug firms".

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