But experts question whether tougher negotiation strategies will lower drug prices in the US, and Trump's plan was light on specifics.
The drug price plan is called American Patients First, and is meant to increase pharmaceutical competition and lower patients' out-of-pocket costs, according to senior administration officials who briefed reporters in advance on Thursday.
The plan will focus on "increasing competition and reducing regulatory burdens so drugs can be gotten to the market quicker and cheaper", Trump said at a White House ceremony with Health Secretary Alex Azar. Other proposed changes included activating programs that enable CMS to stimulate drug price negotiation among Medicare Part D plan sponsors and improve the value of drug purchasing programs. Democrats have long favored giving Medicare that power, but Republicans traditionally oppose the idea.
"The pricing mechanisms are arcane, and they're not easily understandable, and there are a lot of different prices along the way - and different people touching the drug at different places in the system", said Dan Mendelson, president of Avalere Health.
Trump calls his plan the "most sweeping action in history to lower the price of prescription drugs for the American people". And he chose not to allow USA consumers to import low-priced medicines from overseas.
Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, recently called rebates a "convoluted system", noting that they allow manufacturers to raise list prices.
Drugmakers generally can charge as much as the market will bear because the USA government doesn't regulate medicine prices, unlike most other developed countries.
- A potential requirement for drugmakers to disclose the cost of their medicines in television advertisements.
The administration may also revise how it pays for drugs administered in doctor's offices, clinics or hospitals through Medicare's Part B program.
"Today's proposal is an empty gesture that will not meaningfully reduce the cost of prescription drugs for everyday families", said Rep.
Democrats pounced on Trump for not pursuing direct Medicare negotiations, an idea he championed before reaching the White House.
Many researchers say the biggest reason behind the rising spending is high prices for prescription drugs.
Shares of major drugmakers, insurers and PBMs rose after the speech. "Trump chose the incremental over the disruptive".
"CVS Health is already well positioned to implement numerous key proposals outlined by the Administration".
US President Donald Trump on Friday blasted drugmakers and healthcare "middlemen" for making prescription drugs unaffordable for Americans, but healthcare stocks rose as experts said the administration avoided taking aggressive and direct measures to cut drug prices.
While Trump and Azar delivered tough remarks, it did little to scare the industry.
Azar, in his briefing, emphasized his desire to change the way pharmacy benefit managers operate - specifically a system where they negotiate rebates off high drug prices. He gave no timeframe for more concrete steps.
"We're very much eliminating the middlemen", he said. "I don't want to overpromise that somehow by Monday there's going to be a radical change, but there's a deep commitment to structural change".
"Express Scripts stands up to drug companies and drug stores to make sure that everyone - patients, employers, health plans, unions and public programs - get a fair deal for the money they spend", the country's largest pharmacy benefits manager said in a statement.
The U.S. pays 70 percent of the profits for brand-name drugs, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. That's more than twice the $497 per person spent in the United Kingdom, which has a nationalized health care system. But taken together, all these steps aren't enough to appreciably lower USA drug prices. "No similar negotiating happens in the U.S".
"It's hard to know why Germany or France or Australia would agree to something like that", said Professor Jack Hoadley of Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute. According to statistics of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United States has the highest annual health expenditures of any industrialized country, at almost $10,000 per capita, with drugs prices playing a major role.
He disparaged the culture of Washington, DC, that allowed "middle-men" and political lobbyists to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars to keep costs high by using government.
The drug industry's top lobbying arm, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, spent almost $26 million to sway federal decision makers a year ago, according to records tallied by Center for Responsive Politics.
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