Published: Mon, October 29, 2018
Medicine | By Tracy Klein

Trump says new proposal will lower some United States drug prices

Trump says new proposal will lower some United States drug prices

President Trump proposed on Thursday that Medicare pay for certain prescription drugs based on the prices paid in other advanced industrial countries - a huge change that could save money for the government and for millions of Medicare beneficiaries. 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.

The Trump administration is no longer reimbursing for individual payments on the basis of the price of the drug.

As for concerns the proposal could limit patients' access to medication, Azar again panned the idea, noting that even while prices might fall in the USA they would still be comparatively higher, at least a quarter more, than what other countries are paying.

But the administration has in fact been supportive or actively engaged in efforts that could affect people with pre-existing conditions - from repeated attempts to roll back Obamacare to efforts at the agency level to loosen regulations that provide ironclad protections for consumers who are or have been sick. "The administration is imposing price controls from countries with socialized health care systems that deny their citizens access and discourage innovation", PhRMA President Stephen Ubl wrote.

"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 and lead to increased health care costs for millions of Americans", said Senator Chuck Schumer of NY, the Democratic leader, The Times reported.

This supports a recently released HHS report, which found USA drug prices were almost twice as high as those in foreign countries. In the US, large swaths of the poor and uninsured can be left out.

Earlier this month, he signed bills ending the so-called gag-order on pharmacists, which prevent them from discussing cheaper options with customers.

In tweets Thursday morning, HHS Secretary Alex Azar referred to Trump's criticisms of other governments that pay significantly less for drugs than does the USA government. Nothing special, just the prices that other countries pay. "There was only a single case in which the US was paying lower than the global average". "President Trump asked us to fix this problem and here's how we plan to do it". The IPI model instead would engage private sector vendors to offer certain drugs to participating physicians and hospitals at a rate based on a Target Price derived from an worldwide price index. And Azar also announced a proposal requiring manufacturers to include the list price of any drug paid for by Medicare or Medicaid in television ads.

Officials said the aim is to introduce more competition into Part B, whose spending on drugs has doubled since 2006.

Already, the pharmaceutical industry lobbying group came out swinging. "This is very much about putting America first". In 2016, Medicare paid more $17 billion for the 27 drugs, an amount that would be reduced by more than $8 billion under the new model. Drugs sold at the pharmacy are covered under Medicare Part D.

Trump has long promised sweeping action to attack drug prices, and health care is high among voters' concerns ahead of the November 6 elections.

Trump kicked off his drug costs initiative last May from the White House Rose Garden, where he announced a 44-page blueprint containing some significant ideas that could threaten industries along the drug supply chain. 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.

Some experts said this policy - if it's implemented - could have a big impact on drug prices.

While Medicare is barred from explicitly negotiating prices with drug companies, Trump's proposed changes are all created to use the collective power of the growing Medicare market to force drugmakers to bring down their prices or lose access to a potentially lucrative market. If the two sides don't agree on a price, the drug may not make it to the country's market at all, costing the maker a large chunk of change.

While Trump did not specifically name the drug, he was presumably referring to Roche's biologic Lucentis (ranibizumab) by comparing the numbers he cited with figures in the HHS report released earlier Thursday.

This article was written by Felicia Sonmez and Paige Winfield Cunningham, reporters for The Washington Post.

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