Trump Might Just Be The One To Reduce Drug Prices
As the saying goes, only Nixon could go to China. Perhaps only Donald Trump can bring down drug prices in the United States.
While President Barack Obama, and Democrats in general, have made reducing drug prices a core principal of their policy and political agendas, by all accounts, they have been unsuccessful. Obamacare — despite the empty promises made by President Obama and Congressional Democrats — has made no real improvements in the cost of medications. In fact, in the United States, average yearly spending on drugs is more than $1,000 per person.
While the mainstream media remains fixated on President Trump’s Twitter feed and statements he makes at campaign rallies, his administration is effectively working to reduce drug costs for the American people. Just last week at the White House, the President signed two pieces of legislation lifting a “gag rule” on pharmacists that prevented them from informing their patients about lower cost, but effective generic alternatives.
Drug companies may not like that President Trump is targeting them and their profits (including his statement that they are “getting away with murder”) but they really have no one to blame but themselves.
In recent years, pharmaceutical companies have acted in ways that have angered the public and apparently even the President. Who can forget the smugness of “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli who raised the price of one drug by 5000 percent, before ultimately being sent to jail for fraud. Or, Heather Bresch, the CEO of the pharmaceutical company Mylan, and daughter of United States Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who greedily jacked up prices on life-saving EpiPens, used by millions of parents in this country to ensure their children do not die from allergic reactions.
While those examples of corporate malfeasance by drug companies got much attention, they have acted in ways equally disturbing that have not gotten nearly the same publicity. Consider a report by the investigative publication ProPublica, which found that drug companies knowingly produce eye droppers that wastefully dispense drops that are too big — but don’t make the hole on their droppers smaller because doing so would cut into their profits.
This reputational harm done by bad actors in the pharmaceutical industry overwhelms any moves by drug companies trying to do the right thing. Take Eyenovia, a company working to develop an eye dropper that will deliver the exact dose needed by a patient — which would eliminate the waste of having most of the drug running down a patient’s face. Or, the fact that pharmaceutical companies are some of the most generous companies in the world from a charitable standpoint — donating their products to those around the world to those who are less fortunate.
Oddly — or perhaps fittingly — enough, the White House’s efforts to reduce drug costs, known as the President’s Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices, is being led by Alex Azar, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), who previously worked for the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly. In other words, a man who knowns the ins and outs of the drug industry is taking the lead on bringing down prices.
Just this month, the White House announced a proposal that would require drug companies to tell patients the list prices of their drugs in their direct to consumer advertisements. HHS Secretary Azar said, “Patients deserve to know what a given drug could cost when they’re being told about the benefits and risks it may have… They deserve to know if the drug company has pushed their prices to abusive levels.” For a former pharmaceutical executive to take this position, it demonstrates the White House is serious about keeping its promise to bring down drug prices.
Like most Americans, I am hopeful that the president is successful in his efforts to bring down drug prices. While drug companies are getting the most attention, I also believe it is critical to look at others operating in the drug supply chain like pharmacy benefit managers — known as PBMs — and insurance companies. They all have a role to play to ensuring that healthcare is more affordable in the United States. And maybe, the media can take a break from their collective outrage with President Trump, and acknowledge his sincere efforts to succeed where President Obama and Democrats have failed.
A registered nurse, Renee Amoore is the Deputy Chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party.