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Trump’s drug-price crackdown misses the mark, experts say | Washington Examiner

Less than a month into his new job, Alex Azar got some praise from his new boss, President Trump.

The newly minted head of the Department of Health and Human Services had already done a great job lowering drug prices, according to Trump.

Azar was “really setting the world on fire now with your lowering of prescription drug prices and a lot of other things you’re doing,” Trump said at an event on school safety.

But several experts and advocacy groups say policies in the administration’s latest budget proposal don’t tackle the biggest driver of high prices: Nothing prevents a drugmaker from setting a price at whatever level it wants.

“I don’t see much in their budget that is really directed towards high drug costs,” said Gerard Anderson, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “It is really changing patient cost-sharing, but not really lowering the prices of drugs.”

However, Waxman said lawmakers aren’t interested in installing price controls for new pharmaceuticals.

“I think we need to look at the existing system,” he said.

But the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Researchers of America, the top pharma lobbying group, said critics who seek to attack high list prices have an ulterior motive of wanting price controls.

“A lot of critics in the industry they will never be satisfied for less than direct government price controls of prescription medicines,” a PhRMA spokesman told the Washington Examiner. “A lot of conversation tends to lead to where people keep going back to whether it is having the government set price for Medicare or importing from other countries.”

The spokesman added that greater competition is the best way to hold down costs.

But critics say lowering the list price, which is the price set by the manufacturer, would have a ripple effect across the entire healthcare system.

“When you have drugs that go up in price even only 10 percent a year, the impact on people and on employers and on our system is enormous,” said David Mitchell, founder and president of the advocacy group Patients for Affordable Drugs.

He added that a patient pays for a high drug price one way or another, even if the drugmaker offers a discount or rebate. Drugmakers often provide rebates to employer and government-sponsored plans and offer patient-assistance plans for people who are not insured.

However, Mitchell said the high list price is still paid for. “You and me pay for it one way or another through premiums, taxes, or out of our pockets.”

He gave an example of an employer that may be faced with higher healthcare costs because of higher drug prices.

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Trump’s drug-price crackdown misses the mark, experts say.