HHS chief: Trump will take on 'all aspects' of drug pricing

HHS chief: Trump will take on 'all aspects' of drug pricing
© Greg Nash

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight South Korea leader: North Korea agrees to take steps toward denuclearization Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' MORE’s actions on drug pricing on Friday will take aim at “all aspects” of the system, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar said Thursday.

Trump’s speech on drug pricing Friday is being closely watched amid uncertainty on how far the president will go in trying to lower drug prices, a key campaign promise that the administration has yet to take sweeping action on.

Azar’s testimony before a Senate hearing on Thursday, like other recent hints from administration officials, has sought to portray the actions as bold and far-reaching.

“Tomorrow the president will be rolling out a comprehensive plan around drug pricing that addresses all aspects of the channel including the role of the pharmacy benefit manager, drug companies, others in the system,” Azar said.

Observers are watching how directly Trump will take aim at drug companies themselves for their prices, a powerful lobbying force, as opposed to other actors in the system like the pharmacy benefit managers that negotiate drug prices and have come under fire for a lack of transparency.

Azar’s comments indicate Trump will take on both players, including the powerful drug companies. 

Asked by Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinPoll: Democrats inch forward in Wisconsin Primary turnout soars in 2018 with Dems leading charge Senate rankings: 10 seats most likely to flip MORE (D-Wis.) if the plan will take on drug companies directly, Azar replied, "Yes it will. All players will be impacted."

Azar also said Trump will target “foreign governments that free ride off of American investment” in new drugs, hitting another theme of Trump’s message.

One of the steps that could be opposed the pharmaceutical industry that Azar mentioned is “ending any kind of patent gaming,” indicating the administration could take steps to crack down on drug companies using delay tactics to prevent cheaper generic drugs from getting on the market.