Trump Administration Reveals Plans to Lower Drug Prices

In a recent speech at the White House, President Donald Trump unveiled new initiatives to curb high drug prices, including removing barriers to generic-drug development to spur competition among pharmaceutical companies.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration simultaneously released a blueprint outlining changes the agency would take to “correct the abuses of the system that impede competition.” These include limiting which drugs Medicare covers and how much beneficiaries can spend on them. Other proposed actions would require foreign governments to pay more for drugs created as a result of U.S. innovation and would force drugmakers to publicize list prices in their direct-to-consumer advertising.

The blueprint includes more than 50 initiatives, but critics noted that few of them would entail immediate changes.

Drug-pricing experts who spoke with The Wall Street Journal questioned the effectiveness of these proposed efforts. “Overall, this is quite underwhelming in scope,” said Craig Garthwaite, PhD, director of the Health Enterprise Management Program at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. “The proposal is vague on details and filled with more slogans than actual sound economic policies.”

“While some of these proposals could help make medicines more affordable for patients, others would disrupt coverage and limit patients’ access to innovative treatments,” the pharmaceutical industry’s trade group PhRMA said in a statement responding to the speech. According to The Wall Street Journal, shares of drug stocks rose after the president’s speech: Merck & Co. increased 2.8 percent and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals jumped 6.2 percent.

Peter Bach, MD, a physician and director of the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, expressed cautious optimism: “It’s not everything I’d hoped for, [but] this is a sign the administration wants to work on a number of fronts, and I’m encouraged by that.”

Sources: The Wall Street Journal, May 11, 2018; FDA news release, May 11, 2018.