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Trump Touts Healthcare Polices, Drug Pricing in State of the Union

February 7, 2020 in Public Policy by Denise Bell

In his State of the Union address February 5, President Trump highlighted a number of health policy goals, including lowering prescription drug prices. Drug pricing continues to be a priority for the Administration and a hot topic of debate for Republicans and Democrats alike.

Trump specifically pledged to tackle high drug prices, increase transparency, work to eliminate HIV, and step-up funding for childhood cancer. He also praised innovative cures coming from America’s biopharmaceutical industry.

On drug pricing, Trump said, “It is unacceptable that Americans pay vastly more than people in other countries for the exact same drugs, often made in the exact same place. Working together, Congress can reduce drug prices substantially from current levels. I’ve been speaking to Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa and others in Congress in order to get something on drug pricing done, and done quickly and properly. I’m calling for bipartisan legislation that achieves the goal of dramatically lowering prescription drug prices. Get a bill on my desk, and I will sign it into law immediately.”

At the same time that the President was calling for drug pricing legislation, he also extolled efforts being made to find new cures for some of our most serious and challenging diseases. “We have launched ambitious new initiatives to substantially improve care for Americans with kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, and those struggling with mental health,” he said. He also pointed to America’s leadership in developing a vaccine for the new coronavirus. Unfortunately, the  drug innovations the President talked up will depend on a pricing and regulatory framework that attracts stable investment.

Although the White House opposed the House Democrats’ drug pricing plan, H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Prices Now Act because of its heavy-handed price controls that would stifle new cures, it has endorsed the Senate Finance Committee bill, S. 2543, the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction and Health and Human Services Improvements Act.

In addition, the President has been pushing drug pricing reforms through a series of proposed regulations, including drug importation and an international price index model or IPI. Both of these proposals pose significant risk to innovation and patient access to safe and optimal drug choices. While Democrats and Republicans Although Republicans and Democrats are pretty far apart on how to lower drug costs, the President wants action on drug pricing, which could set the stage for bipartisan compromise.

On increasing transparency in the U.S. health system, he said, “I am asking the Congress to pass legislation that finally takes on the problem of global freeloading and delivers fairness and price transparency for American patients. We should also require drug companies, insurance companies and hospitals to disclose real prices to foster competition and bring costs down.”

The President also called for more funding and a renewed sense of urgency in addressing HIV and childhood cancers, stating, “In recent years we have made remarkable progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Scientific breakthroughs have brought a once-distant dream within reach. My budget will ask Democrats and Republicans to make the needed commitment to eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years.”

He said he would ask Congress for a $500 million increase in funding for medical research on childhood cancer over a decade. The President said he plans to include the increased funding as part of his budget, likely to be released this month. With healthcare shaping up to be a voter priority in the 2020 elections, issues such as drug pricing, among others, are certain to remain in the spotlight.