HHS Secretary Alex Azar: ‘Trust Us by Our Actions' and Deeds

By Melanie Arter | May 11, 2018 | 7:49 PM EDT

President Donald Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar (Screenshot)

(CNSNews.com) - President Donald Trump unveiled his “blueprint” for lowering prescription drug prices Friday, which he said begins “to derail the gravy train for special interests by ending Obamacare’s twisted incentives that actually encourage higher drug prices.”

At a White House Rose Garden press conference, Trump called on Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to begin initiating his plan.

“I’ve instructed Secretary Azar to begin moving forward on reforms that will bring soaring drug prices back down to earth. Our plan takes steps to derail the gravy train for special interests by ending Obamacare’s twisted incentives that actually encourage higher drug prices,” he said.

“It also gives Medicare Part D plans new tools to negotiate lower prices for more drugs and make sure that Medicare Part D incentives encourage drug companies to keep prices low,” the president said.

“We are not going to reward companies that constantly raise prices, which in the past has been most companies. Frankly, Alex used to run one of them, so nobody knows this system better than Alex. That’s what we needed -- and a very successful one,” he said.

Azar joined the Trump administration after serving as president of Lilly USA LLC, the drug company Eli Lilly and Co., largest affiliate. Trump touted Azar’s expertise as part of the very pharmaceutical industry Trump is targeting as a strength in the administration’s reform effort.

During the White House press briefing immediately following the announcement, Fox Business Channel reporter Blake Burman asked Azar, “When people hear about this plan, read about this plan over the upcoming days, they're presumably going to learn about yourself, as well. And they might say, ‘Wait a minute. Somebody who was a pharma executive is now going to be the one in charge of lowering drug prices. How is that going to work?’ Your pitch to Americans that they can trust you to oversee this effort would be what?”

“I'd say trust us by our actions and by the deeds in the blueprint. Over 50 action plans that are hard hitting. It's the hardest-hitting plan ever proposed by a president across the entire spectrum of every player in this industry to drive down drug prices and make drugs more affordable,” Azar said.

“I know this from having been on the other side running a drug company and these issues -- which is, I actually looked at if you could lower drug prices. It didn't work for any one company. This is how perverse the system is,” he said.

“You put yourself at a disadvantage in the system by having a lower list-price drug than others -- again, because every player system makes more money as a percent off of that list price,” Azar added.

“This is precisely why I'm so excited to be here in government, with knowledge that I've got and this team has about how we can change the rules of the road and actually change the system so that we can reverse those incentives to make that work, make those choices work, bring down drug prices, and make things more affordable,” he said.

“Are you suggesting that when you were running a big pharmaceutical, that one of the reasons why you couldn’t lower the price was because you were at a disadvantage? And do you regret that it's gotten to this point, as somebody who was in that position?” Burman asked.

“The math doesn’t work,” Azar replied. “The system doesn’t make that work. My job now, with the president's commission, is to make that work so that the incentives work to actually bring prices down, charge less on the list price.

“That's exactly what we're about, is to fix that, because no one company on their own can change that dynamic. The entire system actually is built for increased prices and high prices. This plan reverses those dynamics,” he said.


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