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President Trump unveils new plans to bring US drug prices in line with the rest of the world

Published on 26/10/18 at 11:08am

Two weeks before the all-important midterm elections in the US, and after repeated strongly-worded promises, President Trump has unveiled an initiative to finally bring down prescription drug prices in the country.

“For decades, other countries have rigged the system so American patients are charged much more – in some cases much, much more – for the exact same drug,” he said in a speech revealing the plans. “In other words, Americans pay more so other countries can pay less. It's wrong. It's unfair.

“We are taking aim at the global freeloading that forces American consumers to subsidise lower prices in foreign countries through higher prices in our country,” he continued. “Same company. Same box. Same pill. Made in the exact same location, and you would go to some countries and it would be 20% of the cost of what we pay,” adding: “We're fixing it.”

The plans hinge on the introduction of an international pricing index (IPI) as a reference point when setting prices for drugs paid for through Medicare Part B. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said that the lowered costs brought on by initiative would boost treatment adherence and increase competition by bringing in private-sector vendors, allowing them to procure and distribute medications to doctors for the first time. It is also promised to eliminate financial incentives which have been used to coerce clinicians into prescribing more expensive treatments.

According to estimations from the HHS, by bringing US prices more in line with those elsewhere around the world, the IPI model would provide total savings $17.2 billion to patients and taxpayers over a five-year period. The department aims to implement the model in an experimental form across around half of the US by a provisional date of early 2020, inviting input into which regions will take part.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar commented on the unveiling of the plans, stating: “With this innovative approach, [President Trump] is now proposing historic changes to how Medicare pays for some of the most expensive prescription drugs, securing for the American people a share of the price concessions that drugmakers voluntarily give to other countries.”

With healthcare rightfully being a prime concern for American voters, Trump’s move could prove a popular and important one when US voters head to the polls in November.

Matt Fellows

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