President Donald Trump has summoned top officials for a White House meeting on drug prices, frustrated over a new round of price hikes after Trump promised to lower pharmaceutical costs, two individuals with knowledge told POLITICO.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Kevin Hassett and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney are among officials set to meet with the president Tuesday, one individual said.
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HHS did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump’s frustration spilled into public view after reports last week that pharmaceutical companies were raising prices in the new year on hundreds of drugs. “Drug makers and companies are not living up to their commitments on pricing. Not being fair to the consumer, or to our Country!” the president tweeted Saturday.
Trump has vowed to lower U.S. drug prices, which far outpace the same drugs’ cost in most other developed countries. Administration officials have worked to reinforce the message even as pharmaceutical costs continue to climb.
“The president’s been really clear — prices of drugs need to be coming down, not going up,” Azar said on Fox News on Tuesday, describing a series of policies that the administration has unveiled, including targeting industry middlemen and seeking to eliminate incentives for high prices.
“Now we’re making progress there, but the president has been clear — this has to stop,” Azar added. “Drug prices must start coming down, not going up, and we will work with Democrats, we will work with Republicans to make that happen.”
Drugmakers raised prices on more than 250 medicines by an average of 6.3 percent on Jan. 1, according to the health software company Rx Savings Solutions. Several more companies quietly announced their own increases in the following days — including Purdue Pharma, which raised prices for the painkiller OxyContin and addiction treatment Butrans by 9.5 percent on Jan. 2. Price increases, in general, have been more modest than in past years.
Other parts of the administration’s plan include requiring drug companies to post prices in ads and proposing sweeping changes to how Medicare pays for certain drugs.
Drug companies have responded with largely symbolic pledges that gave Trump the headlines he wanted without making substantive changes in how they do business or making a lasting effect.
Pfizer, the target of a Trump tweet in July that sent the industry scrambling, will on Jan. 15 roll out the 41 price hikes it promised to delay last year.
Azar — the president’s point person on lowering drug costs — has worked to keep Trump on his side amid criticism from the pharmaceutical industry and fellow Republicans who worry the health secretary’s proposals would give the government too much control over the private sector.
Some conservatives in Congress and the administration have bristled at some of Azar’s ideas, most notably an effort to change how Medicare pays for certain drugs that skeptics have blasted as akin to importing price controls.
But Trump has largely stuck by Azar, sources familiar with their relationship said, driven by the desire to make good on one of his first — and most popular — campaign promises.