Trump Says Goal Of New Proposal Is To Lower Drug Prices
Trump Says Goal Of New Proposal Is To Lower Drug Prices
President Trump blames high cost of drugs on 'freeloading' countries
28 October, 2018, 14:19
Health Secretary Alex Azar said President Trump's bid to tie what the US government pays for certain Medicare drugs to what other nations pay won't cripple innovation or access to vital treatments, even if the plan is one of Big Pharma's "ultimate nightmares".
"For decades, other countries have rigged the system so American patients are charged much more - in some cases much, much more - for the exact same drug", Trump said. These higher prices mean that Medicare pays almost TWICE as much as it would for the same or similar drugs in other countries. But it's Democrats who seem to be making political headway, with issues such as maintaining protections for pre-existing conditions, Medicaid expansion, and "Medicare for all".
Broadly, Trump's proposal aims to bring USA prices for drugs covered through Medicare Part B into line with those in other wealthy countries.
Speaking from the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department in Washington Thursday, the president said foreign countries are paying practically nothing for drugs since their governments pay whatever drug companies set.
"Same company. Same box".
Trump, in his speech introducing the plan Thursday, called out several drugs specifically for the savings that could be generated from bringing prices more in line with the mooted worldwide index.
Many large pharmas have limited exposure to Part B, which encompasses drugs administered in doctor's offices or hospital outpatient clinics. Physician-administered drugs can be very expensive, but pharmacy drugs account for the vast majority of what consumers buy.
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Under a demonstration project in half the country, Medicare would create and use and "international pricing index" to decide how much to pay for drugs covered by Part B of Medicare. That's the law also known as "Obamacare", which Trump is committed to repealing.
Trump unveils his plan at the Department of Health and Human Services on October 25, 2018.
"The administration is imposing foreign price controls from countries with socialized health care systems that deny their citizens access and discourage innovation", Stephen Ubl, president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said in a statement. The trade group for drug makers, PhRMA, called the proposal "price controls" and said it was "disappointed the administration put the needs of patients aside with these proposals".
HHS Secretary Alex Azar criticized a system in which other countries to pay significantly less for drugs than the USA government.
Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill were dismissive. Trump has promised sweeping action to attack drug prices, both as president and when he was running for the White House.
The proposal is Trump's boldest action yet to lower drug prices, which the president says has been a key goal of his administration. "I said this since I took office: Come up with alternatives of ways to introduce competition and market-based pricing into Part B, none have come forward".
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But that's not how HHS Secretary Alex Azar tells the story.
In advance of Trump's speech, HHS released a report that found USA prices for the top drugs administered in doctors' offices are almost twice as high as in foreign countries. The agency will launch a pilot program to reimburse doctors with a flat rate, rather than a percentage of the drug's price, to remove any incentive for doctors and hospitals to choose more expensive drugs over cheaper ones.
The 19-page report looks specifically at drugs purchased and dispensed by doctors themselves under Medicare's Part B program. On Thursday, the president announced a plan to bring down drug costs for Medicare.
HHS says overall savings to Medicare would total $17.2 billion over five years. However, HHS officials said the plan is designed so it would not cut into doctors' reimbursements.
Trump has harshly criticized the pharmaceutical industry, once asserting that the companies were "getting away with murder".
A recent Associated Press analysis of prices for brand-name drugs found far more increases than cuts in the first seven months of this year. The analysis found that Medicare pays almost twice as much as it would for the same or similar drugs in other countries.
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