Drug Prices In The News This Week, Pres. Trump Speech

May 07 2018

Drug Prices In The News This Week, Pres. Trump Speech

Drug prices and costs to consumers will be the center attention this week as President Trump speaks on this issue. At stake is whether consumers will receive relief from very high drug prices or Big Pharma will continue reaping windfall profits on drugs they bring to market.


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Drug Prices: Speech Expectations

Many lobbyists and experts small changes to the way Medicare and Medicaid pay for drugs. Some proposals are sure to upset various parts of the health care industry, including both drug makers and pharmacy benefit managers.

Here are some ideas that are making the rounds prior to the President’s speech.


Drug Prices: Letting Medicare Set Prices

President Trump pledged his support for that idea on the campaign trail, breaking with years of Republican opposition. Mr. Trump noted that the Federal government could save $300 billion every year if it used cost negotiations.


There is a good chance the President will advocate for this in his speech.  Indeed, Health and Human Services (HHS) is working on a plan that will lower drug costs through negotiations.

One proposal is to shift chemotherapy drugs administered in the hospital into a different part of Medicare. This shift gives insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers power to negotiate discounts on some of Medicare’s costliest therapies.

Drug Prices: Buying Drugs From Canada

Buying drugs from Canada is another idea that President Trump has backed.

Indeed, drugs manufactured here in the United States are available for much lower prices in other countries.

Buying U.S.-made drugs elsewhere and re-importing them is an idea with some bipartisan support, too. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) have co-sponsored legislation on the topic together. Also, Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is the latest lawmaker to advocate for this for the policy change.

But like negotiation, it’s an idea that Azar, Gottlieb, and other top health officials have long opposed. They have said the policy will likely lead to broader importation than some policymakers envision.

Big Pharma, on the other hand, says that these drugs are not of American manufacture. Instead, they are often drugs coming from China, India, or elsewhere that are trans-shipped through Canada into the United States. The administration and public health officials have repeatedly found these not to be safe. There can be no guarantee of safety.


Drug Prices: Point of Sale Rebates

The administration is also considering point-of-sale rebates. This would force pharmacy benefit managers to share more of the savings they get from drug makers with consumers. It would lower costs for people who rely on costly drugs. But critics say it will mean higher premiums for everyone dlse in the Medicare program.

Another proposal is putting an inflation cap on drugs under Medicare Part B. This covers treatments for ophthalmology, rheumatology, and cancer. Consumers would benefit since if you’re a biotech and launching a new drug, it would be priced to be more sustainable in the long run.


Drug Prices: Waiver Requests

Another proposal is approving waiver requests from Massachusetts and Arizona, which have asked permission to use a price formula to negotiate for better drug prices in their state Medicaid programs.

Approving the waivers could be a boon for states’ ability to negotiate prices better than the ones they’re getting right now.



One thing is certain; President Trump’s speech later this week on solutions to current high drug prices will not garner unanimous support. Consumers or Big Pharma will criticise. But all do agree that right now drug prices are much too high and could be going higher.

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Barry G

Barry graduated from City University of New York and holds a Ph.D. in Physiological Psychology.

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