Big Pharma Is 'Relieved' Over Trump Plan on Drug Prices

One tangible change: Drugmakers may have to list prices on TV ads
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 11, 2018 3:52 PM CDT
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President Trump walks to the Oval Office with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar after an event about prescription drug prices.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

(Newser) – President Trump's long-awaited plan to bring down drug prices will mostly spare the pharmaceutical industry he previously accused of "getting away with murder" and instead focus on increasing private competition and requiring more openness about costs, per the AP. In Rose Garden remarks at the White House, Trump called his plan the "most sweeping action in history to lower the price of prescription drugs for the American people." (The plan is here.) But it does not include his campaign pledge to use the massive buying power of the government's Medicare program to directly negotiate lower prices for seniors. The Washington Post notes that the idea was the one feared most within the industry. The Wall Street Journal reports that drugmakers and pharmacy-benefit managers "suggested privately they were relieved to avoid harder blows from the plan."

Instead, the administration will pursue a raft of old and new measures intended to improve competition and transparency in the drug-pricing system. Those include a proposal requiring drugmakers to disclose the cost of their medicines in their TV advertisements. Health Secretary Alex Azar said the Food and Drug Administration would immediately examine requiring that information in TV ads. The proposals also include banning the pharmacist "gag rule," which Trump said prevents druggists from telling customers about lower-cost options so they can save money, and speeding up the approval process for over-the-counter medications so patients can buy more drugs without prescriptions. It's an approach that avoids a direct confrontation with the powerful pharmaceutical lobby, but it could also underwhelm Americans seeking relief from escalating prescription costs.

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