Trump Vows (Again) To Lower Drug Prices But Skeptics Doubt Much Can change


President Mr . trump, armed with the help of staff seasoned in the ways of the drug industry, unveiled his blueprint to deal with sky-high drug prices Friday afternoon, promising that increasing industry competition can help Americans save at the pharmacy counter.

“Under this administration, we are putting American patients first,” Trump said with Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar by his side. Azar, he explained, had a pursuit to “to bring soaring drug prices right down to Earth.”

Many of the proposals Trump's team can accomplish administratively – and some already are moving – however for others, Trump said, he intends to use Congress.

The administration's blueprint proposes 50 actions to reduce what Americans pay for drugs, including giving Medicare more power to negotiate drug prices, Azar said.

Azar said he wants to make drug prices more transparent, as well. For instance, he said the meals and Drug Administration should require pharmaceutical companies to reveal drugs' list prices within their direct-to-consumer television ads.

“It's material and relevant to determine if it is a $50,000 drug or a $100 drug,” Azar said.

Dr. Jeremy Greene, a professor and health policy expert at Johns Hopkins Medicine, said he was puzzled because when much control the company might have over requiring drug prices as part of advertising.

“The FDA has already established nothing to use price, particularly in advertising,” Greene said. “There have been prominent court cases over whether pharmacies can or cannot advertise according to drug prices.”

Regardless, Trump known as the plan “the most sweeping action ever to reduce the price of prescription drugs towards the United states citizens.”

“We will have tougher negotiations, more competition and much affordable prices at the pharmacy counters,” Trump said. “And it'll start to work soon.”

On another note, Trump told the crowd that “right-to-try is happening,” a nod to congressional efforts to expand access to experimental medications for people with life-threatening conditions.

Trump's proposals target reducing the out-of-pocket costs for older Americans enrolled in Medicare – but professionals state that amounts to more show than substance.

“There's a noticeable difference between reducing the pain people feel associated with out-of-pocket costs in the pharmacy counter and lowering the actual national invest in prescription medications,” said Allan Coukell, senior director for health programs in the nonpartisan Pew Charitable Trusts.

While 80 % of american citizens say the cost of drugs is unreasonable, 1 in 4 people report having difficulty spending money on drugs, according to Kaiser Family Foundation polling. And the government is paying more, too. Medicare's drug spending grew nearly 90 % from 2006 to 2021, by having an annual average rate of growth of 7.6 percent, based on Pew.

During the campaign and his presidency, Trump has utilized strong language from the pharmaceutical industry, famously saying the makers are “getting away with murder.” Late Thursday, senior administration officials told reporters on a call the plan will lessen the price pharmaceutical companies looking for drugs.

But when inquired about whether Medicare will negotiate drugs – as Democrats have called for and also the president has discussed – administration officials asserted lever would not be pulled.

Instead, Trump's blueprint calls for measures for example offering free generics to low-income seniors, passing on to consumers more of the negotiated savings that insurers win, and ensuring Medicare enrollees don't spiral in to the so-called catastrophic phase of coverage they hit when they pay 1000s of dollars annually for drugs.

Leigh Purvis, director of health services research at AARP Public Policy Institute, said the president's proposals fail to ultimately address that spending. AARP has long called for Medicare to achieve the ability to negotiate prices.

“Anything that does not address the list price really is just type of squeezing the balloon in this world,” Purvis said.

For Medicare patients, though, limiting the things they pay out-of-pocket might be especially useful to those taking cancer drugs or any other expensive therapies, said Stacie Dusetzina, an associate professor of health policy at Vanderbilt University Med school.

Today, patients who pay $5,000 out-of-pocket for prescriptions go into the “catastrophic” category of Medicare coverage, and therefore are charged just Five percent of their drug costs. But given the astronomical price of cancer drugs, that can leave patients paying $1,000 per month or even more, Dusetzina said.

Medicare patients with the deadly cancer multiple myeloma can spend $14,000 annually out-of-pocket for the drug Revlimid, which costs about $20,000 per month, Dusetzina said.

Trump also accused other developed countries of “freeloading” by experiencing the fruits of American innovation – including drugs developed with taxpayer money or by U.S. companies – without paying a fair price. Because national health systems far away have authority to negotiate drug costs – and won't cover some drugs entirely – their citizens often pay a fraction of the prices charged in the United States.

“In certain cases, medicines that cost a few dollars in foreign countries cost hundreds of dollars for the same pill” in the United States, Trump said. “It's unfair, it's ridiculous and it is not going to take place any more. It's time to end the global freeloading for good.”

A spokesman for Doctors Without Borders said Trump has it backward. Rather than raising drug prices abroad, costs need to come down everywhere, said Leonardo Palumbo, U.S. advocacy adviser for the group's access campaign.

“Other countries aren't 'free-riding,' and lifesaving medicines aren't more costly here simply because they are less expensive elsewhere,” Palumbo said.

Today, Medicare has limited power to negotiate drug prices, partly because some of the most expensive treatments – such as those for cancer patients – are in a protected class that must definitely be covered, Dusetzina said.

To really negotiate better prices, Medicare would want the freedom to reject some drugs completely, Dusetzina added.

But excluding certain expensive drugs in the Medicare program could leave patients in a difficult position, said Chris Hansen, president from the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network. Patients who want a costly drug would either have to skip it or pay it off themselves, he explained.

Azar said Medicare could pressure drug companies to keep prices down in different ways.

“In our drug discount program, if you have a medication in a protected class, it's nearly impossible for drug plans to negotiate and obtain a price reduction,” Azar said. “What if we said you only get to be in a protected class there are raised your price in 18 months?”

Some policy experts, though, said Trump's proposals are mostly old ideas.

“I don't think anyone is talking seriously about having Medicare negotiate with drugmakers,” said Tom Bulleit, head from the healthcare practice in the D.C. office of Ropes & Gray.

Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), who along with Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) met with Trump in the White House last year to propose changes on drug prices, said, “If you listen carefully, you are able to almost hear the champagne popping within the corporate boardrooms of drug companies across the country.”

David Maris, a pharmaceutical industry analyst for Wells Fargo investors, released an email earlier this month pointing out the increased social and economic tension around the drug industry is building.

“My guess is this is just the beginning,” Maris said.

Trump's plan includes tackling the rising costs of drugs in Medicare's Medicare part b program, which will pay for drugs delivered in doctor's offices or hospital outpatient setting – a challenge previous administrations failed to tackle.

While the facts continue to be vague, Trump has required the prices paid for certain drugs under Part B – this can include expensive drugs for cancer chemotherapy and rheumatoid arthritis symptoms – to become negotiated using the same tactics insurers and pharmacy benefit managers use under Medicare Part D, the program that seniors use for their retail prescription medications.

Azar said the administration plans to release a request information to collect input on changes to the program.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America released an argument Friday saying it was getting excited about working with the administration and warning: “While a few of these proposals could help make medicines more affordable for patients, others would disrupt coverage and limit patients' access to innovative treatments.”