(Bloomberg) — Tackling the high price of prescriptions drugs in the U.S. is still “an absolute priority,” Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price told senators Thursday.
Pharmaceutical companies have been the target of President Donald Trump ever since he said they were “getting away with murder” in January. While he has threatened on several occasions to force them to bid for government business as a way to reduce prices, he hasn’t translated the threat into action. For instance, he didn’t include any drug pricing proposals in his recent budget request, a document usually seen as a list of priorities for an administration.
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Price told the Senate Finance Committee that Trump has asked his department for recommendations on policies that would reduce the costs of medications. The HHS secretary said he charged the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Food and Drug Administration and the Health Resources and Services Administration with coming up with proposals. Price also has been meeting with pharmacists, care providers and pharmacy-benefit managers in recent weeks to discuss ideas for making drugs more affordable.
“It’s an absolute priority and we look forward to working with anyone who’s interested in holding down or bringing down drug prices for the American people,” Price said.
One way to lower costs is to enable more generics — which are cheaper versions of a brand name — to come to the market. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Monday that the agency is looking at how to push applications to the front of the line in cases where there are fewer than three competing generic manufacturers. The FDA is seeking to eliminate within a year the backlog of 2,640 generic-drug applications, Gottlieb said.
At the Senate hearing, Price declined to answer a separate question about a critical issue for health insurers: whether the administration will fund cost-sharing reduction payments made to insurers to help reduce low-income Americans’ health expenses. He cited citing an ongoing lawsuit over the payments.