Trump tack­les drug prices

Pres­i­dent says pro­posal would lower some prices by bas­ing them on other coun­tries’ costs

The Mercury News Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Paige Winfield Cunningham and Feli­cia Sonmez ‘GLOBAL FREELOAD­ING’

WASH­ING­TON » Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump took his bold­est ac­tion yet to lower drug prices, say­ing his ad­min­is­tra­tion is mov­ing to stop “global freeload­ing” by for­eign na­tions when it comes to the price that Amer­i­cans pay for pre­scrip­tion drugs. The an­nounce­ment is a sign that the pres­i­dent and his aides are seek­ing to shift the fo­cus to health care two weeks be­fore the midterm elec­tions.

In a speech Thurs­day af­ter­noon at the De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices, Trump said his ad­min­is­tra­tion would be tak­ing the “rev­o­lu­tion­ary” step of al­low­ing Medi­care to di­rectly ne­go­ti­ate prices with drug com­pa­nies that he says have “rigged” the sys­tem, caus­ing U. S. pa­tients to pay more for their medicines.

“Amer­i­cans pay­more so other coun­tries can pay less. It’s wrong. It’s un­fair,” Trump said.

Trump’s re­marks were the first as pres­i­dent at HHS and come at a time when health care is play­ing a defin­ing role in the cam­paign as Democrats slam Re­pub­li­cans over whether they sup­port pro­tect­ing ac­cess to health care for peo­ple with pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions. He ar­gued other coun­tries were be­ing “very dis­re­spect­ful” by selling their pre­scrip­tion drugs to Amer­i­cans for higher prices than their own ci­ti­zens are pay­ing for them.

Un­der the new ap­proach, the Cen­ters for Medi­care and Med­ic­aid Ser­vices plans to ex­per­i­ment with a new way of set­ting prices for most drugs ad­min­is­tered through Medi­care’s Part B pro­gram, which cov­ers all doc­tor’s vis­its for se­niors and the drugs pre­scribed to them dur­ing their vis­its.

HHS es­ti­mates the new pric­ing in­dex — which the agency says would ap­ply to 50 per­cent of the coun­try — would save Medi­care $17.2 bil­lion over five years. Medi­care now pays the aver­age sales

price of a medicine in the United States, plus an ex­tra fee based on a per­cent­age of that price. Un­der the new­model, Medi­care would pay fees to doc­tors that are more closely aligned with what other coun­tries pay.

The pro­posal is Trump’s bold­est ac­tion yet to lower drug prices, which the pres­i­dent says has been a key goal of his ad­min­is­tra­tion. It sug­gests a more prom­i­nent role for the gov­ern­ment in set­ting drug prices than many Re­pub­li­cans may be com­fort­able with and is likely to face strong push­back back from the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try.

It also high­lights an in­creas­ing push by the pres­i­dent per­son­ally and his ad­min­is­tra­tion more gen­er­ally to em­pha­size health care in the runup to the elec­tions, an is­sue polls show is top of mind with vot­ers. On Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, the pres­i­dent signed sweep­ing leg­is­la­tion to tackle the opi­oid epi­demic and he has tweeted that “all Re­pub­li­cans” will pro­tect peo­ple with pre- ex­ist­ing health con­di­tions in re­sponse to Demo­cratic charges oth­er­wise.

“It’s hard to take the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and Re­pub­li­cans se­ri­ously about re­duc­ing health care costs for se­niors two weeks be­fore the elec­tion when they have re­peat­edly ad­vo­cated for and im­ple­mented poli­cies that strip away pro­tec­tions for peo­ple with preex­ist­ing con­di­tions,” Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a state­ment.

On the cam­paign trail, Democrats have been ham­mer­ing away at Re­pub­li­cans for their failed at­tempt last sum­mer to re­peal and re­place the Af­ford­able Care Act, which en­abled those with prior ill­nesses to re­ceive af­ford­able health care. His ad­min­is­tra­tion has worked to chip away at sev­eral ACA re­quire­ments, in­clud­ing sup­port­ing GOP re­peal of the in­di­vid­ual man­date in the party’s tax over­haul and sup­port­ing waivers for Med­ic­aid work re­quire­ments.

Trump’s an­nounce­ment on drug prices came hours af­ter HHS re­leased a re­port high­light­ing the steep spend­ing by the U.S. gov­ern­ment on pre­scrip­tion drugs.

The re­port com­pares the price paid by Medi­care for 27 pre­scrip­tion drugs with the aver­age price paid for the same drugs by coun­tries with sim­i­lar eco­nomic con­di­tions. It con­cludes the higher U. S. prices means Medi­care pays nearly twice as much as the pro­gram would pay for the same or sim­i­lar drugs in other coun­tries. Dur­ing his speech, Trump cited an ex­am­ple of a “com­mon” cancer drug that he says is seven times more ex­pen­sive for Amer­i­cans than for those liv­ing out­side the United States, though he didn’t name the drug specif­i­cally.

HHS Sec­re­tary Alex Azar crit­i­cized a sys­temin which other coun­tries pay sig­nif­i­cantly less for drugs than the U. S. gov­ern­ment. The United States is the big­gest fun­der of re­search and de- vel­op­ment in the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal sec­tor, yet cur­rently lacks the bar­gain­ing power to bring prices down — un­like in coun­tries with pub­lic health care pro­grams.

“For some drugs we are pay­ing up­wards of 300 or 400 per­cent and in some in­stances we pay 700 per­cent more than other coun­tries do,” Azar told re­porters af­ter Trump’s ad­dress. “Pres­i­dent Trump asked us to fix this prob­le­mand here’s how we plan to do it.”

The new pay­ment model will af­fect just drugs pur­chased and dis­pensed by doc­tors them­selves un­der Medi­care’s Part B pro­gram — not medicines pur­chased at phar­ma­cies. In the fiveyear ex­per­i­ment, car­ried out through CMS’ in­no­va­tion cen­ter, prices will be grad­u­ally and in­creas­ingly pegged to the new in­ter­na­tional in­dex in­stead of aver­age U.S. sales price.

SUSANWALSH — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump dis­cusses drug prices dur­ing a visit to the De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices in Wash­ing­ton. HHS Sec­re­tary Alex Azar is at right.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.