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Trump Administration Prescribes Remedy for Headache of High Drug Prices

(VOA): America will not be “cheated” by foreign countries that “extort” unreasonably low drug prices from U.S. companies, declared President Donald Trump on Friday. Rolling out an ambitious blueprint to significantly cut the cost of prescription medication here and abroad, Trump announced he is directing U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to make it a priority to prevent foreign countries from forcing American drugmakers to provide medicines at drastically lower prices than in the United States. “It's time to end the global freeloading once and for all,” Trump said during a White House Rose Garden event. Trump did not specifically name any countries, but according to a report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers profit margins on brand-name drugs in the United States are four times as high as in more regulated markets, such as major European countries and Japan. Earning more profit in such countries presumably would give drugmakers greater maneuverability with their bottom line to charge less in America.    In its annual report last month on the protection of intellectual property around the world, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, in addition to EU nations and Japan, also specifically criticized the drug pricing and reimbursement policies of Canada, India, South Korea and New Zealand.  In his Rose Garden comments, Trump also singled out what he called greedy companies and middlemen, who he declared had grown rich through “dishonest double-dealing,” vowing his administration is now “putting American patients first.” Trump’s plan has four main themes: increasing marketplace competition; empowering private health care plans to negotiate discounts for Medicare beneficiaries; providing new incentives for manufacturers to reduce the list prices of medications; and reducing out-of-pocket costs for patients.  The president’s plan, however, breaks with one of his campaign promises, which was to authorize the purchasing clout of the federal government to negotiate directly with drug manufacturers for lower prices.  “Instead of putting forth a bold initiative, the president pulled his punch,” said Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the opposition Democrats in the House of Representatives. “The president is breaking his promise to the American people to allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices, which would save seniors billions of dollars at the pharmacy.”  Medicare is a federal health insurance program, covering 15 percent of the U.S. population, primarily those age 65 and older and certain younger people with disabilities.  Pelosi is calling on Trump to work “with Democrats to offer real solutions for struggling families, not waste their time bragging about meager, window dressing (a superficial appearance) policies.” Shortly after the Rose Garden event, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters in the briefing room that much of Trump’s plan can be achieved without legislative action.  “Most of this can be done by executive action,” Azar said, adding that “some of this will require regulatory action” that would take months, while restructuring the entire U.S. drug system would take years.   Azar, a former chief executive of the giant Eli Lilly pharmaceutical company, where he raised drug prices, explained incentives need to be put into place to encourage the lowering of prices.  “The entire system is actually built for increased prices and high prices,” he explained. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), which is the industry’s main lobbying organization, said some of Trump’s proposals could help make medicines more affordable for patients, but “others would disrupt coverage and limit patients’ access to innovative treatments.” PhRMA President and Chief Executive Officer Stephen Ubl said in a statement the association “will be reviewing the request for information and look forward to participating in the comment process in the coming months.”

(This story has not been edited by N24 staff and is Voice Of America auto-generated from a RSS feed)

Published Date: Saturday, May 12th, 2018 | 09:45 AM

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