Published: Tue, May 15, 2018
People | By Neil Grant

White House Unveils Plan to Lower Cost of Prescription Drugs

White House Unveils Plan to Lower Cost of Prescription Drugs

Trump and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar laid out the main planks of the drug pricing blueprint in a White House Rose Garden address. "Unbelievably, instead of lowering drug prices in the United States, he wants to raise prices overseas - giving the drug companies even more profits".

I'm not interested in hearing those talking points anymore, and neither is the President.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday blasted drugmakers and healthcare "middlemen" for making prescription medicines unaffordable for Americans, but healthcare stocks rose as his administration avoided aggressive direct measures to cut prices.

They negotiate rebates with drug manufacturers, and then they take a share of it. PBMs are alleged for keeping the drug prices higher, while not passing on the rebates to patients.

But several health policy specialists said that although the 44-page blueprint contains serious ideas that could threaten different industries within the pharmaceutical supply chain, it leaves open many key details. He noted that he'll work with Congress in the coming weeks to pass legislation to address the high prices of medicines. "We also have to get after pharma companies that engage in anticompetitive practices and try to block the entry of generics or biosimilar products to market", he said. "If we want to have a real market for drugs, why not have them disclose their prices in the ads, too?" FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told reporters at the press briefing that the agency would launch a webpage making complaints about the practice public as soon as this week. Specifically, Azar highlighted the idea that under the Trump administration proposal, the patient can choose a drug plan as in Part D, and that it isn't a "one-size-fits-all" answer. Plan sponsors will also gain more power to negotiate with the manufacturers of the drugs. CMS could move all Part B drugs into Part D, or it could test the proposal on just a few drugs, and drugs would be chosen for the demonstration based on either price or therapeutic substitutability. According to this rule, pharmacists can not tell their customers if there are cheaper alternatives to the drugs they are buying without using their health plan. However, COA criticized the administration for leaving a 2% sequester cut to Medicare reimbursement for cancer drugs in 2013.

"There's not a big proposal here that is going to make a huge difference".

"We're very much eliminating the middlemen". "Some of the price tags are approaching half a million dollars and so that's also an issue for the physicians, they don't want to have to make that investment up front".

"You can imagine what happens when you're developing a drug: It's often much more appealing for the drug to go into Part B than D", he added. For now, the administration will focus on which drugs would benefit from having their payment method shifted.

One competitive move the administration will not endorse is the importation of cheaper drugs from Canada or Europe, which has been a go-to fix-it pushed by many US lawmakers over the years.

"When foreign governments extort unreasonably low prices from USA drug makers, Americans have to pay more to subsidise the enormous cost of research and development", Trump said.

Mr. Azar said the type direct negotiation that takes place in European countries would not work - and could be unsafe. Pharmacy benefit managers, which manage drug coverage and negotiate discounts for insurers, took the opportunity to tout their efforts to control costs.

Approval of low-cost drugs: The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) will approve more low-cost drugs which will increase competition and hopefully bring the prices down. He proposed an end so-called "gag clauses" on pharmacists.

Trump's proposal includes an FDA evaluation to consider whether drug manufacturers should share prices in their advertising moving forward.

HHS is also weighing ways to remove restrictions on insurance plans regarding negotiations for Part D's six "protected classes" of drugs. Part D plans receive only an average 6 percent discount compared to an average 20 to 30 percent discount in the private market, Azar said.

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