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Drugmakers Brace for Trump's Proposals to Tackle U.S. Prices

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(Bloomberg) — Two top pharmaceutical CEOs say they expect President Donald Trump, a frequent critic of industry pricing practices, to take steps soon to address high U.S. drug costs.

Novartis AG Chief Executive Officer Joe Jimenez and Allergan PLC CEO Brent Saunders say that they anticipate proposals from the Trump administration anywhere within the next few weeks to the next few months. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has been meeting with pharmacists, care providers and pharmacy-benefit managers in recent weeks to discuss ideas for making drugs more affordable.

(Related: Trump Meets With Drugmakers As Industry Fears Price Controls)

“The White House is continuing to be thought-provoking and thoughtful around these issues, looking for ways to increase competition but also encourage investment in R&D,” Saunders said in an interview on Tuesday. He anticipates “some sort of executive action” linked to controlling the cost of medicine.

Trump has repeatedly excoriated pharmaceutical companies for high drug costs, saying that drugmakers were “getting away with murder” and threatening to force the industry to bid for government business. Drug prices are typically higher in the U.S. than in other developed countries. Some U.S. politicians have pushed for greater efforts to tame costs, including the importation of medicines from overseas.

No Action So Far

So far, the president has taken no action on the issue. The Trump administration’s proposed 2018 budget contains almost no major proposals that would impact drug prices.

At the White House sessions, drugmakers have suggested ideas such as removing barriers to drug-price contracts based on the results that medicines deliver for patients, Jimenez told investors in Boston on Wednesday.

Novartis expects “to have a solution that will preserve the business model of how we innovate and discover and develop and launch into the U.S., as opposed to some of the bigger and more draconian elements that were discussed earlier,” the CEO of the Swiss pharmaceutical giant said.

Allergan’s Saunders said last year that the company would increase prices for its drugs no more than once a year and in increments of less than 10%, after a few pharmaceutical makers found themselves in the spotlight for what critics called exorbitant price hikes, bringing scrutiny to the entire industry.

“My sense is that we should expect the Trump administration to continue to talk about and look for ways to take action with respect to pricing of pharmaceuticals,” Saunders said. “I think that should be the baseline and built into the baseline, and that’s something that frankly we at Allergan have been thinking about for a couple of years.”

 — Read Doctors Who Prescribed Salix Drugs Ate Pretty Well on ThinkAdvisor.