Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar is out and about, publicly explaining why his boss is adamant about reducing the cost of prescription drug prices in the United States. Last July, President Trump said he was working up an executive order for “most favored nation” status for drug prices to meet other developed nations.
This week, Trump is unsatisfied with simply meeting other nation’s baseline – he now wants to, of course, beat their best price points to claim bragging rights.
Azar spoke at an event sponsored by Axios Media to explain the status of the administration’s proposal:
“What we suggested was reducing that 180 percent premium [above other countries] by 30 percent. The president did not find that satisfactory. His view, which he has articulated publicly, is that America ought to be getting the best deal among developed countries. That was the terminology of ‘most favored nation status.’ And so that’s the type of proposal we’re working on.”
War on Big Pharma Profits
Trump’s plan is two-pronged: Allow for the first time importing pharmaceuticals from other countries and mandate lower prescription costs to the consumer. It’s a risky proposal that big pharma isn’t too happy to hear from this administration.
PhRMA president and CEO Stephen Ubl took offense at the idea when proposed last summer and let fly an “everything but the kitchen sink” warning: These drugs “could have originated from anywhere in the world and may not have undergone stringent review by the FDA … importation schemes could worsen the opioid crisis and jeopardize public safety.” Not to mention their bottom line.
One would assume that the industry would take such a stance. And now Mr. Trump has doubled down on the consumer end, attempting to make medications such as insulin and cancer drugs affordable.
The other problem is pushback from Republicans who argue that the U.S. shouldn’t try to compete with countries that employ national price controls and Democrats who say the plan doesn’t go far enough as it only lowers for physician-administered drugs for those on Medicare.
In the eight years prior to President Trump’s inauguration and plan of attack on outrageous prescription costs, the average price increase was 3.6 % per year. That number is falling. Fast forward to 2019 when a recent report from the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) shows prescription drug prices are decreasing under the Trump administration at rates not seen since the 1960s.
In October, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced approval for a total of 1,171 generic drugs: It was an all-time record. And it followed two years of the FDA approving record numbers.
Despite pushback from big pharma, free for all Democrats, and Republicans, progress is being made on behalf of the American patient, prompting Azar to reinforce his support of the president’s lofty goals, saying they put “American patients first through competition, negotiation, lower list prices, and lower out-of-pocket costs.”
The incentive to treat and cure diseases is noble in its cause yet ill affordable. If the president succeeds in pushing through a formal regulation passed by Congress, the healthcare discussion will be back on the table in a new light for all involved.
Read more from Sarah Cowgill.