March 19, 2018 / 7:35 PM / 7 months ago

Trump says he is working to lower prescription drug prices

MANCHESTER, N.H. (Reuters) - President Donald Trump promised to bring down prescription drug prices on Monday, saying U.S. citizens pay far more than people in other countries do for the same product and that his administration would announce new measures in about a month.

U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive aboard Air Force One at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S. March 19, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

“If you compare our drug prices to other countries in the world, in some cases it’s many times higher for the exact same pill or whatever it is, in the exact same package made in the exact same plant,” Trump said. “We’re going to change that.”

Trump made the remarks during a speech in Manchester, New Hampshire that focused on the administration’s efforts to battle the nation’s opioid addiction crisis. Trump said he planned a news conference in about a month to roll out drug price proposals.

“We’re driving ‘em down,” Trump said. “We pay as a country so much more for drugs because of the drugs lobbies and other reasons, and the complexity of distribution, which is basically another term for saying, ‘How do we get more money?’.”

His comments reflect growing scrutiny over what patients end up spending for their medicines after insurers, distributors, hospitals and pharmacies are paid for their roles in delivering the drugs. U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb recently criticized such players for “Kabuki drug-pricing” constructs that drive up prices for consumers.

On Monday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the new proposals will focus on “how we decrease the price of drugs and how we bring discounts that the middlemen right now are getting, how those will go to our patients.”

Azar, a former president of the U.S. arm of drugmaker Eli Lilly and Co, joined Trump at the New Hampshire event.

Trump has vowed since his election to tackle rising drug prices. His proposed 2019 budget outlined some steps to do so, including by allowing up to five states more flexibility over which drugs are covered by Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor and disabled.

That could give the states more leverage to negotiate lower prices for prescription medicines.

Trading volume in the ishares Nasdaq Biotechnology exchange-traded fund picked up as Trump began talking about drug prices, but the ETF’s price closed down about 2 percent.

Shares in pharmacy benefits managers Express Scripts Holding Co and CVS Health Corp closed down 4 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively.

Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Additional reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb in Washington and Caroline Valetkevitch in New York; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Leslie Adler and James Dalgleish

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