Trump lays out plan for reducing drug prices

Trump unveils prescription drugs plan

Cassidy, who worked as a Baton Rouge physician before entering politics, joined a bipartisan group of senators pushing to outlaw the clauses in March.

Trump has said that drugmakers are "getting away with murder", and has expressed an interest in negotiating drug prices, something the government isn't allowed to do for Medicare and Medicaid.

Pharma industry, in the worst case scenario, had expected federal government to directly negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare and allow import of prescription drugs by patients from overseas.

That idea has always been supported by Democrats but is a non-starter for drugmakers and most Republicans in Congress.

And the system for paying for the drugs dispensed under Medicare's Part B program also has to change, Azar added.

The administration will pursue a variety of old and new measures, but majority could take months or years to implement, and none would stop drugmakers from setting sky-high initial prices.

- A potential requirement for drugmakers to disclose the cost of their medicines in television advertisements.

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High list prices of drugs are first on the list of problems Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has been highlighting in recent speeches.

Cassidy, who's positioned himself as a leading GOP voice on health care matters, has signed on to a number of legislative efforts to target drug costs. "We're not calling for Medicare negotiation in the way that Democrats have called for", one of the senior officials told reporters Thursday night. "I'm for transparency, but you have to shed light on the drug manufacturers here too", said Jeff Davis, a senior advisor at the law firm Baker Donelson.

The blueprint echoes some of those initiatives and says curbing abuse of FDA's Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) programs will be a priority to help generic drugs come to market faster. One prong in the administration's attack on high drug prices is to stop anticompetitive practices by drugmakers. Unwinding those incentives requires structural changes to the market, Cassidy said.

Those ideas avoid a direct confrontation with the powerful pharmaceutical lobby, but they may also underwhelm Americans seeking relief from escalating prescription costs.

Trump said his administration would take aim at the "middlemen" in the drug industry who became "very, very rich", an apparent reference to health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs).

"Consumers are ultimately going to be the judge of this announcement", said Dan Mendelson, a health care consultant. People on Part D could get those discounts when they fill prescriptions at the pharmacy counter.

Leaders from the pharmaceutical industry were among the first major business leaders to meet with Trump in the second week of his presidency.

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Other parts of the plan were previously released in the president's budget proposal and would require action by Congress.

Mandating that plans pass along rebates to patients.

The way drug prices are determined is fundamentally the same everywhere. In the USA, this negotiation takes place many times over, as one drug maker has separate discussions with a range of benefits plans.

Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, Trump said the current system has been corrupted by greedy businesses and middlemen who have made "an absolute fortune" through "dishonest double-dealing" at the expense of US consumers who need medicine to extend or improve their lives.

"What Trump laid out is policy that Big Pharma can love", said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen.

That may be because the 12-point plan won't do enough to pressure drug companies to lower their prices, said Adriel Bettelheim, the health care editor at Politico. 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. Healthcare investors had braced for months for more direct attempts to regulate USA prices that would cut into industry profits. "Most of us feel, 'what can we do about it?' As an individual, I don't think there's much I can do about it".

But others warn there is no guarantee that unraveling the current pricing-setting bureaucracy will lead to lower costs because it all starts with drugmakers' initial prices.

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