President Donald Trump said in his State of the Union address he wants to lower prescription drug prices, but critics said they’ve heard similar comments before that didn’t translate into action.
Trump said fixing high drug prices will be one of his top priorities and “prices will come down substantially, watch.” But a year earlier, he told drugmakers at a White house meeting they were charging too much and wanted to lower prices. Advocates of lower drug prices said they’re still waiting for something to happen.
The critics included a consumer group representative, who said Trump “is all talk and no action” on drug prices. Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, told me the president has “taken actions that suggest he really has no interest in seeing drug prices lowered and is more interested in benefiting industry and their lobbyists.”
“He opened the revolving door between the pharmaceutical industry and government by appointing a secretary of health and human services, Alex Azar, and a commissioner of the FDA [Scott Gottlieb] who came directly from industry,” Carome said. “And Azar came from a company that routinely escalated prices and there’s no reason to believe that he’s someone who’s going to take substantial actions to lower drug prices.”
Azar was an executive at the drug company Eli Lilly & Co.
Thomas Huelskoetter, a health policy analyst at the Center for American Progress, also told me Trump talked a lot about this issue during his campaign and he’s been in office a year and hasn’t really done anything on it. “There wasn’t a specific proposal in the speech” on drug prices, Huelskoetter said. As there was no specific proposal, “I didn’t take it as a meaningful shift on efforts to bring down prices.”
During his address, Trump also pointed out that the Food and Drug Administration approved a record number of generic drugs in 2017.
Health-care attorney David Rosen told me it’s encouraging that drug pricing and generic drugs are on Trump’s mind. Rosen said generic drugs “can certainly hold down health-care costs” by giving people access to products that are high quality, therapeutically equivalent, and lower cost.
Rosen is a partner and public policy lawyer with Foley & Lardner LLP, Washington, who previously held supervisory positions with the FDA. He also is a Bloomberg Law advisory board member.
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