White House drug-price initiative to include negotiation tools, list prices, Azar says
HHS Secretary Alex Azar revealed Wednesday that the White House's impending drug-pricing strategy will include strengthening the federal government's ability to negotiate with drugmakers and address high list prices.
Speaking to the World Health Care Congress in Washington, Azar said HHS is focused on finding solutions for the "lack of negotiating tools" that lead to government programs and seniors overpaying for drugs and out-of-pocket costs and "foreign governments free-riding off of American investment in innovation."
Azar said the White House's sweeping initiative will build on the proposal outlined in President Donald Trump's 2019 budget but that the president "wants to go further."
The address is Azar's first since returning to Washington after being hospitalized in Indiana for diverticulitis. His illness delayed the White House's announcement on drug-pricing strategy, which officials have said is coming soon.
Azar did not offer any time frame for unveiling the proposals, only noting that HHS is still working with the White House on a "comprehensive strategy." An HHS spokesperson however told Modern Healthcare that the department has "no announcements to share at this time on the date."
The White House Council of Economic Advisers released a white paper in February that recommended easing regulations and expediting Food and Drug Administration approvals of generics, as well as pushing competition among pharmacy benefit managers and reining in reimbursement under the 340B drug discount program.
The secretary also called out hospitals for high prices, and once again emphasized the need for transparency so patients can shop for the best-priced treatment.
Last week, CMS Administrator Seema Verma announced the proposed Medicare payment rule for 2019, which would require hospitals to post their standard list of charges online.
"We know, empirically, that when we empower healthcare consumers, market forces work," Azar said.
Azar returned to the administration's embrace of value-based care, and touted HHS' seeking stakeholder comments on direct provider-contracting in Medicare, saying such a strategy could help deliver primary care at "a predictable and affordable cost."
"We look forward to consulting with all of you on how this might work, because it would be a significant step, representing the kind of fundamental rethinking of provider compensation that may be necessary to deliver value," Azar said.
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