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Avoiding Swamp Trump Can Tackle Drug Pricing

Avoiding Swamp Trump Can Tackle Drug Pricing

Friday, 27 April 2018 12:30 PM Current | Bio | Archive

President Trump made many promises as he campaigned for his current job. One of the most important to Americans across the country was his pledge to bring down domestic prescription drug prices, currently among the highest in the world.

Trump doubled down on this promise when he told Time magazine in his "Person of the Year" interview in December 2016," I’m going to bring down drug prices. I don’t like what has happened with drug prices."

It now appears that a long-awaited announcement from the White House outlining the president’s proposed drug price fixes is coming. While the currently reported framework sounds promising, the president must be careful to ensure that last-minute changes from Washington, D.C. insiders and powerful special interest groups do not undermine his attempts to fulfill a key campaign promise.

Many would argue that the cure to this issue of price gouging, like the particularly despicable example we saw from Valeant Pharmaceuticals in regards to their hepatitis C drugs we saw executed by Martin Shkreli, is not going to be solved as long as the Trump administration continues to hire the majority of their healthcare advisers from the pharmaceutical industry companies he once vilified.

There also seems to be a direct correlation between the amount of money spent by lobbyists and the legislation coming down from Capitol Hill. Since January of 2017, when President-elect Trump declared that drug manufacturers were "getting away with murder," the pharmaceutical industry ramped up their lobbying efforts, spending 35 percent more on lobbying efforts than they did in 2016.

Couple that with the fact that nine out of every 10 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and a whopping 97 out of 100 senators, have taken campaign contributions from pharmaceutical companies and it becomes abundantly clear why none of the 119 bills aimed at bringing down drug costs introduced over the last decade have succeeded in producing actions that could actually bring down costs, such as allowing access to overseas drugs, or allowing Medicare to negotiate prices.

The pharmaceutical industry has even succeeded in stacking the president’s Drug Pricing and Innovation Group, meant to craft proposals to combat high drug prices, with their own "swamp creature" lobbyists. Their installation means more of the same profiteering can be expected without intervention from the president himself.

The aptly named "HHS Strategy to Lower Drug Prices and Reduce Out-of-Pocket Costs" would provide positive changes and consumer relief with respect to the price of pharmaceuticals. Moving some drugs from Medicare Part B to Part D shows the administration recognizes that private sector actors who negotiate directly with the pharmaceutical manufacturers, such as pharmacy benefit managers (PBM) are key to keeping drugs prices low.

This change would also recognize that moving forward, the administration believes negotiation and competition, essentially basic function of PBMs, should be applied to government drug benefits.

The institution of an inflation cap, another reported component of the president’s plan, would also be a win for patients and a direct rebuke to pharmaceutical manufacturers and prevent them from instituting the drastic price hikes that have been driving the soaring cost of drugs in recent years. In addition, proposed changes to the formularies, such allowing plans to cover just one drug per category, is a victory for those actors who working to reign in the price of drugs, as they will now have more leverage to negotiate for lower costs.

Earlier this year, in his State of the Union address, President Trump reiterated his promise to lower drug prices declaring, "One of my greatest priorities is to reduce the price of prescription drugs. In many other countries, these drugs cost far less than what we pay in the United States . . . That is why I have directed my administration to make fixing the injustice of high drug prices one of our top priorities. Prices will come down."

What exact changes are enacted remain to be seen.

As the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) evaluates a proposal from the Health and Human Services Department it is important to make sure the revolving door of Washington, D.C. influence doesn’t subvert yet another key Trump administration priority. As the president makes his final decision regarding the content of his drug pricing plan he would be wise to steer clear of the swamp creatures and keep this key promise ahead of a critical midterm election. Stay tuned.

Julio Rivera is an entrepreneur, small business consultant and political activist. He contributes to RightWingNews.com and NewsNinja2012.com, and had previously covered boxing and baseball for the now defunct "The Urban News" in his native Paterson, N.J. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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As the president makes his final decision regarding the content of his drug pricing plan he would be wise to steer clear of the swamp creatures and keep this key promise ahead of a critical midterm election. Stay tuned.
hhs, omb, pbm, sotu
Friday, 27 April 2018 12:30 PM
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