Trump Administration Should Seize Opportunity On Drug Prices


Matt Mackowiak Founder, Potomac Strategy Group
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The rising cost of prescription drugs is an issue that hits millions of families all over the country.

President Donald Trump has talked about this issue for years, and it was a key part of his campaign platform in 2016.

When the Trump administration took office, and the president declared that drug manufacturers were “getting away with murder,” the pharmaceutical industry immediately increased their lobbying efforts, spending 35 percent more than the previous year to counter this perception.

The administration is readying the release of its plan to reduce prescription drug prices as soon as next week.

There is widespread agreement that prescription drug prices in the United States are already too high, having been subject to massive increases in recent years. Americans and their insurers often pay many times what people in other developed countries pay for the same medications. When he was President-elect, Trump said “I’m going to bring down drug prices. I don’t like what has happened with drug prices.”

A poll recently released by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 80 percent of Americans believe prescription drug prices are “unreasonable”. More than half (52 percent) believe that Congress should make a “top priority” legislation to bring down prices.

This sets the context for the decision facing the Trump administration.

How bold will they be?

The administration is getting set to reveal its plan about drug prices, and the President has a valuable opportunity to take action that is long overdue by enabling negotiations between consumers and pharmaceutical companies, as well as putting an end to the practices of price gauging by the Martin Shkreli’s of the world.

With one in five Americans skipping doses or not filling expensive prescriptions, lowering drug costs by going straight to the source – pharmaceutical companies – should be the Administration’s and Congress’ top priority.

Yet neither party has stepped up to the plate to solve this crisis. None of the 119 bills aimed at bringing down drug costs introduced over the last decade have succeeded in producing actions that could actually bring down costs, such as allowing access to overseas drugs, or allowing Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate prices.

Those truly interested in solving the problem must focus on reform.

The editorial staff at Bloomberg argues that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) should be allowed to negotiate with drug manufacturers – in order to ensure that drug prices better reflect the drugs’ medical value. If such negotiation is the answer, then we should be supporting the companies that engage in such practices now. What we should not do is let pharmaceutical companies shift the blame to everyone else: Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs), health insurers, hospitals and even patients with chronic conditions.

There is no question that the cost of developing prescription drugs is high, with research and trials taking years if not decades.

But the rewards for their innovation is these brand companies have exclusive access to the drug market for years, long before generics are allowed to enter the market.

Even in the often-opaque area of U.S. healthcare costs, sometimes the most obvious explanation is the correct one: Drugs are costing patients more because drug companies are charging more for their drugs.

President Trump promised real action on this issue as a candidate.

Millions of Americans will be watching closely to see what his administration proposes in the coming days.

Matt Mackowiak is president of Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C.-based Potomac Strategy Group. He’s a Republican consultant, a Bush administration and Bush-Cheney re-election campaign veteran and former press secretary to two U.S. senators. His “Mack on Politics” podcast is available on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher and on WashingtonTimes.com.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

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Matt Mackowiak