Trump says proposal will lower US drug prices

Ruby Wallau for STAT

"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 pre-existing conditions", Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement.

Speaking from the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department in Washington Thursday, the president said foreign countries are paying practically nothing for drugs since their governments pay whatever drug companies set.

The trade group for drug makers, PhRMA, called the proposal "price controls" and said it was "disappointed the administration put the needs of patients aside with these proposals". "And especially, they would disrespect patents when it came to American-made drugs", Trump said.

Trump, too, promised more to come and said he will soon announce "some things that will really be tremendous". The analysis found that Medicare pays almost twice as much as it would for the same or similar drugs in other countries.

President Donald Trump announces a plan to overhaul how Medicare pays for certain drugs during a speech at the Department of Health and Human Services October 25, 2018 in Washington, DC.

In addition to trying to cut the base price of the drugs, the administration, through HHS, is proposing changing how doctors who deliver these drugs are paid.

The Trump administration is focused on prices paid for drugs that are covered under a portion of the Medicare program known as Part B. Those are typically drugs that are given in an doctor's office and include drugs used in cancer treatment, as well as eye medications like Eylea and Lucentis, used to treat age-related macular degeneration.

And drug companies are not going to "walk away" from the world's largest payer for prescription drugs, Azar argued.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), a major lobbying group, is crying foul, saying the proposal will upend a competitive and innovative marketplace in the US, where patients get access to cutting-edge drugs faster than other developed countries.

Today, Medicare reimburses doctors and hospitals the average sales prices of the drugs, plus 6 percent to cover the cost of giving medications to patients.

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Trump has falsely tweeted that "all Republicans" support protecting people with preexisting conditions.

"The administration is imposing foreign price controls from countries with socialized health care systems that deny their citizens access and discourage innovation", stated Stephen J. Ubl, president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

Trump's announcement followed the release of a Health and Human Services report that compared USA and global prices for 27 of the costliest Medicare Part B drugs.

"The reality is he could very easily not take this on and do what other administrations have done and let the prices keep rising". Azar said more plans were being developed to beat back the high cost of prescription drugs. "President Trump asked us to fix this problem and here's how we plan to do it". "There was only a single case in which the U.S. was paying lower than the worldwide average". It would remove incentives for doctors to prescribe more expensive drugs by paying them a flat fee for storing the medications instead of a fee based on a percentage of the drug's price.

The report "provides troubling insight into how the current worldwide drug pricing system has put America in last place, " Azar tweeted.

The 19-page HHS report looks specifically at drugs purchased and dispensed by doctors themselves, under Medicare's Part B program.

The HHS study, for example, shows that the USA spent about $1.7 billion in 2016 on Rituxan, a drug made by Biogen Inc. that treats non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Health care is high among voters' election-year concerns. In a March Kaiser Family Foundation poll, eight in 10 respondents said drug costs are unreasonable and 92 percent said passing legislation to bring down the cost of prescription drugs should be a top or important priority.

President Donald Trump tried Thursday to make good on a campaign vow to lower drug prices - attacking "foreign freeloaders" and proposing significant changes to how Medicare pays for many drugs. It could also lower some of seniors' out-of-pocket costs, which are based on the total price paid by Medicare for a given drug. Trump can complain about high drug prices all he wants.

The Obama demonstration is entirely different from what the Trump administration is proposing, Azar said.

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