President Donald Trump wants results on skyrocketing prescription drug prices, not “cheap political theatrics,” Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar said Monday.
Azar pushed back against criticism over the weekend that Trump had flip-flopped on a campaign promise to use the power of the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices. Azar said on “The Laura Ingraham Show” that the administration has crafted a plan with the best chance to succeed.
“Look, the president is not interested in any kind of cheap political theatrics,” he said. “He wants results that really will deliver at the end of the day. You know, as appealing as some concepts might be on day one, you gotta play it out to, you know, to day 300 and see if it’s actually gonna save money.”
Those appealing concepts, Azar said, are to allow Americans to reimport drugs that U.S. pharmaceutical companies sell abroad at artificially low prices, or to prohibit drug companies from selling drugs in the United States for higher prices than they do in other countries.
“I get it. I see the appeal on day one,” he said. “But what you have to do is peel the onion to see how things actually would work.”
Azar predicted pharmaceutical companies would pull out of smaller countries if the federal government imposed such a rule. “They’ll actually, perversely, jack up their prices here in America to compensate for that,” he said.
The idea of letting Americans import drugs from price-controlled countries has other flaws, Azar said.
“It’s gotta be safe. It has to actually be effective and leading to a result of lower drug prices,” he said. “And it’s gotta respect choice and competition in our system for patients so that they don’t have ‘one size fits all.'”
Allowing people to buy drugs online does not protect against counterfeit drugs, Azar said. And countries like Canada would have no incentive to set up a pipeline to American drug stores that ensures safety, he said.
Doing so would pull drugs out of those smaller markets, Azar said.
But he said Democrats are simply pushing a false narrative when they contend Trump backed off his promise to use the pricing power of big government health programs to reduce prices for consumers.
Right now, Azar pointed out, senior citizens on Medicare enjoy steep discounts on many pharmaceutical drugs — breaks comparable to what Canadians and Europeans get.
But Azar said there are “protected classes” of drugs that are exempt from those rules.
“We are going to unleash the drug plans to go after Pharma and get discounts there. We are going to negotiate, and we’re gonna do better bidding.”
“We are going to unleash the drug plans to go after Pharma and get discounts there,” he said. “We are going to negotiate, and we’re gonna do better bidding.”
Azar said he and Trump are both open-minded about other ideas. But he added that people should not dismiss the plan unveiled last week.
“We’re gonna keep looking for any other options here,” he said. “But right now, we’ve got the most comprehensive, hard-hitting plan of any Democrat or Republican president in history — with ideas that liberals, conservatives have never even thought of.”