Opinion

How President Trump is delivering results on drug prices

Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar looks on as President Donald Trump speaks during an event about prescription drug prices in the White House Rose Garden on May 11, 2018.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar looks on as President Donald Trump speaks during an event about prescription drug prices in the White House Rose Garden on May 11, 2018. The Associated Press

Americans have heard politicians talk about high drug prices for years. It’s one of the main problems in health care that both President Donald Trump and I, as his health secretary, have talked about a great deal too.

But the Trump administration isn’t offering up just talk — we’re delivering results. In December for the first time in 46 years, the official government measure of inflation in drug prices actually dropped for all of 2018. More than a dozen companies last year cut their prices, froze prices or rolled back price increases.

One year ago, the president and I stood in the White House Rose Garden to announce the American Patients First blueprint, a more ambitious plan to bring down drug prices than ever put forward by any administration. In the past year, we have delivered on that blueprint, producing more changes to drug pricing than any American president has ever made.

One big change was just announced in May. Starting in July, drug companies will be required to include the list prices of their drugs in TV ads.

Now, when you see a prescription drug ad, it won’t just be drug companies telling you to consult your doctor about a drug, with no idea how much it might cost. Before you go pay for an appointment, you’ll know whether the price of the drug you heard about is $50, or $5,000 — and the company setting the $5,000 price will start to think twice about it.

Putting prices in TV ads is the most significant step any president has ever taken to back up this clear promise: You, as American patients, have a right to know the price of a drug or health care service before you receive it.

That is just one piece of our plan for bringing down drug prices. The president’s blueprint promised tougher negotiation, more competition, lower list prices and lower out-of-pocket costs. In just the last year, the president has delivered on all four goals.

We have approved record numbers of low-cost generic drugs, in part by cracking down on ways that drug companies cheat the system for approving generics. That included the first-ever approvals of a generic competitor to the EpiPen and a generic competitor for a common asthma inhaler.

We brought new negotiation tools to Medicare Advantage. Plans have already used these tools to choose lower-cost biosimilar options, cutting costs for patients while providing the same quality care.

The president signed legislation banning pharmacy gag clauses, which prohibited pharmacists from telling you the best deals for the medications you need. We’ve also required that every Medicare Part D plan offer a tool to allow your physician and you to find out your coverage options and out-of-pocket costs for drugs before they’re prescribed.

We have also proposed a plan to change the incentives that have driven drug prices higher and higher at the pharmacy counter by replacing a broken system of kickbacks with discounts delivered to patients.

These plans to keep bringing down drug prices are a contrast to legislative proposals for a total government takeover of health care. We will equip you with the knowledge you need to get your medications at a price that works for you — while preserving access to options. In socialist systems, the patient isn’t part of the picture. It’s government bureaucrats deciding which drugs patients have access to.

We believe the right way to bring down drug prices, and bring down health care costs overall, is to put patients in control. As Trump recently said, “no American mom or dad should lay awake at night worrying about the hidden fees or shocking unexpected medical bills.” We are working to deliver transparency in the pricing of hospital services, and have proposed a way for you to have seamless access to your health records at no cost. We’ve also laid down principles for how Congress should put an end to the abusive practice of surprise billing.

Under President Donald Trump, we’re finally moving from a system where patients are left in the dark to where patients are in the driver’s seat. That is the way Trump will deliver American patients the health care he’s promised them: with the affordability they need, the options and control they want and the quality they deserve.

Alex M. Azar II is U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.

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