Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials have been meeting with pharmaceutical companies to seek voluntary cuts in drug prices, according to sources familiar with the meetings.
Voluntary cuts in prices would allow the administration to immediately tout benefits of President Trump‘s drug pricing plan, which was announced last month, rather than having to wait for any regulatory actions to be put forward and take effect.
It is not yet clear whether any drug companies have agreed to cut their prices voluntarily.
The website Inside Health Policy reported last week that the administration could soon announce a deal to lower the price of insulin for people paying without insurance.
Trump said at the end of May that “in two weeks” drug companies would “announce voluntary massive drops in prices.”
Officials have not provided any more details on what he meant with those remarks. The two-week mark is coming up this week.
“We are working with stakeholders across the spectrum including drug companies, [pharmacy benefit managers], distributors, patients, health care professionals, physicians, insurers, etc., to respond to President Trump’s call to action and help patients pay less for their prescription drugs,” an HHS spokesperson told The Hill on Monday when asked about the meetings with drug companies.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, himself a former drug company executive, hinted at the voluntary action approach in a speech last month when he said the administration prefers to try to work with industry first but would act if industry does not cooperate.
“We look forward to working with industry to build a better drug-pricing system,” Azar said then. “But if industry isn’t willing to work with us, President Trump and his administration will keep turning up the pressure — until we have a system that finally puts American patients first.”
The administration last month put forward a long-awaited plan aimed at lowering drug prices, which included possible proposals such as reclassifying drugs within Medicare to increase competition and requiring drug companies to disclose their prices in television ads.
Democrats attacked the proposal as being too soft on drug companies, as it leaves out more sweeping items like having Medicare negotiate drug prices directly.
Pharmaceutical stocks rose on the announcement, an indication that the plan was not what drug companies feared. Azar has since sought to push back on that reaction and indicate that he is serious about taking action.