President Donald Trump unveiled a multi-pronged plan to help lower the price of prescription drugs Friday, saying it's time to bring down the cost because Americans are being priced out.
"The drug lobby is making an absolute fortune at the expense of American consumers," Trump said. "No industry spends more money on lobbying than the pharmaceutical health products industry. Last year, these companies spent nearly $280 million on lobbyists. That is more than tobacco, oil, and defense contractors combined."
Trump then rattled off the stakeholders in the prescription drug world, a list that includes drug companies, insurance companies, distributors, pharmacies, and others.
"Government has also been part of the problem because previous leaders turned a blind eye to this incredible abuse," Trump said. "But under this administration, we are putting American patients first."
Trump said the new plan will eliminate "dishonest double-dealing" among distributers that results in higher prices at the consumer level. It will also get rid of a rule that prevents pharmacists from telling consumers how they can save money on prescriptions, and it will allow the FDA to speed up the approval process of new over-the-counter medicines.
Trump accused foreign countries of paying lower prices for drugs, a practice that forces Americans to pay more money to make up the difference.
"In some cases, medicine that costs a few dollars in a foreign country costs hundreds of dollars in America for the same pill, with the same ingredients, in the same package, made in the same plant," Trump said.
"It's time to end the global freeloading once and for all. I have directed U.S. trade representative Bob Lighthizer to make fixing the top priority with every trading partner. America will not be cheated any longer, and especially will not be cheated by foreign countries."
Reuters reported earlier Friday, meanwhile, that the Trump administration's drug plan may not impact the industry all that much.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar later spoke at the daily White House press briefing and gave more details of the plan. The many steps the administration is taking — and plans to take — all have the goal of lowering drug costs at the consumer level.
Some of the proposed actions require some sort of legislative action, which Azar said could likely be accomplished via executive orders in the White House.
"Most of this we believe can be done by executive action," Azar said.
Azar pointed to creating more competition in the prescription drug market and pushing back on pharmaceutical companies that try to block new products from coming to the market as key steps in the process.
"We need a vital and vibrant generic drug industry and generic drug market," he said.
In addition, Azar said better communication between doctors and patients and pharmacists and patients can also be implemented. He gave an example of doctors having to disclose the cost of drugs they are prescribing to patients and to offer alternative options that might be less expensive.
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