US Waits for Trump to Tackle Drug Pricing as Big Pharma Goes on Lobbying Blitz

(Photo: DNY59 / Getty Images)(Photo: DNY59 / Getty Images)

President Trump postponed a speech on drug pricing this week, leaving observers to wonder whether the White House is rethinking its long-awaited plan to fulfill a major campaign promise and bring down the price of prescription drugs.

During his State of the Union address in January, Trump said that “fixing the injustice” of high drug prices was one of his administration’s top priorities. On March 19, Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said they would roll out a list of policy proposals for decreasing drug prices “in about a month” while speaking at an event in New Hampshire. That was more than four weeks ago.

Meanwhile, first-quarter lobbying spending by Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the trade group for the pharmaceutical industry, has increased for the second year in a row, from $8 million last year to almost $10 million in 2018, according to federal lobbying disclosures. Last year, PhRMA’s first-quarter spending spiked by 34 percent in the wake of Trump’s election.  

As Truthout has reported, the cost of pharmaceuticals is expected be one of the top issues shaping the midterm elections. Polls show voters are angry about high drug prices and want political leaders to prioritize bringing them down. Drug manufacturers as well as insurance companies and their pharmacy benefit managers are jockeying for position in the unfolding political debate.

The White House announced Trump would postpone the drug-pricing speech on Monday, a few days after Azar returned from a brief stint in the hospital due to a bowel condition, according to reports. Azar, the former pharmaceutical executive Trump tapped to tackle the drug-pricing issue, is expected to return to work this week, where reports suggest he is surrounding himself with industry insiders.

“Until President Trump decides to take on corporations instead of hiring their executives and lobbyists, he will fail to deliver the change he promised and the…

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