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Trump tells drug companies to 'get prices down'

President Trump on Tuesday told a group of drug company executives gathered for a meeting at the White House that they need to "get prices down."

"You folks have done a tremendous job but we have to get prices down," Trump said, according to a pool report. 

Trump has been a critic of high drug prices, and has endorsed measures like allowing Medicare to negotiate prices. 

But the president also called for reducing regulations to allow for faster approvals of new drugs and to allow drug companies to bring jobs back to the U.S.

"We’re going to be cutting regulation at a level nobody's ever seen before," Trump said in the meeting with executives. 

"You can’t get approval for the plant and then you can’t get approval to make the drug, other than that you’re doing fantastic," he said.  

Trump called drug prices "astronomical."

"U.S. drug companies have produced extraordinary results for our country, but the pricing has been astronomical for our country," he said. 

Still, he also offered to make the Food and Drug Administration's approval of new drugs "much faster."

Executives from Merck, Johnson & Johnson, Celgene, Amgen, Eli Lilly, and the PhRMA trade group joined Trump at the meeting. House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) was also on hand.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the main lobbying group for the drug industry,  described the White House meeting as positive and productive.

“Our industry takes seriously the concerns raised about the affordability and accessibility of prescription medicines, and we have expressed our commitment to working with the administration to advance market-based reforms," said Stephen Ubl, PhRMA's president and CEO, in a statement.

"The current system needs to evolve to enable the private sector to lead the move to a value-driven health care system. To do this, we need to reform existing laws and regulations that are currently preventing private companies from negotiating better deals and paying for medicines based on the value they provide to patients and our health care system."

Trump's calls for government action to address drug prices could face resistance in a Republican-controlled Congress that is far less willing to take action on drug prices than he appears to be. 

At the meeting on Tuesday, Trump also spoke out against what he called "price-fixing" in Medicare. “I'll oppose anything that makes it harder for smaller, younger companies to take the risk of bringing their product to a vibrantly competitive market," Trump said. "That includes price-fixing by the biggest dog in the market, Medicare, which is what's happening. But we can increase competition and bidding wars, big time.”

Trump slammed drug companies at a press conference earlier this month, declaring they are "getting away with murder."

"Pharma has a lot of lobbies, a lot of lobbyists, a lot of power. And there's very little bidding on drugs,” he said.

"We’re the largest buyer of drugs in the world, and yet we don’t bid properly and we’re going to start bidding and save billions of dollars over a period of time."

This story was updated at 1:17 p.m.