Trump health chief meets with GOP lawmakers on lowering drug prices

Trump health chief meets with GOP lawmakers on lowering drug prices
© Greg Nash

Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar on Thursday met with Republican lawmakers on the House Ways and Means Committee to discuss ways to lower drug prices.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpHannity urges Trump not to fire 'anybody' after Rosenstein report Ben Carson appears to tie allegation against Kavanaugh to socialist plot Five takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate MORE has railed against drug prices and his administration has rolled out a series of actions seeking to lower prices, though many say the moves have been relatively modest.

House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyHouse GOP bill a mixed bag for retirement savers China imposes new tariffs on billion of US goods: report Trump announces tariffs on 0B in Chinese goods MORE (R-Texas) said that Azar gave lawmakers an update on steps the administration has taken on drug prices and “We talked about what steps can Congress take to help lower these prices as well.”

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He did not provide specifics on where Congress might act. Most observers say action will have to mostly come from the administration, given that Congress has long struggled to address the controversial issue of drug pricing.

Asked if he expected more administrative actions to be announced in the near future, Brady said, “The answer is yes.”

Rep. Tom ReedThomas (Tom) W. ReedJordan hits campaign trail amid bid for Speaker Overnight Health Care: Kavanaugh questioned if Roe v. Wade was 'settled law' in leaked email | Senate to vote next week on opioid package | Officials seek to jail migrant children indefinitely | HHS chief, lawmakers meet over drug prices House Republicans huddle on 'tax cuts 2.0' MORE (R-N.Y.), who was also in the meeting, said that the group did not “directly” discuss specific legislation on drug prices but there was a “conversation” about areas where the administration could need additional authority from Congress.

Democrats have criticized the administration’s steps so far as not going anywhere near far enough on drug pricing, leaving out more sweeping actions like allowing Medicare to negotiate prices.

The administration has made announcements with potential to bring changes, such as forming a working group to explore importing drugs from abroad to lower prices on old, off-patent drugs with high prices.

Officials have also floated a move to eliminate or reform discounts known as rebates that drug companies pay to negotiators, in an effort to simplify the system and lower sticker prices.

Lawmakers discussed rebates with Azar on Thursday, though Reed said there were some sensitivities that limited discussion of a proposed regulation on that subject, given the ongoing regulatory process.