U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
2:14 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you. It’s a big day. It’s a very important day. (Applause.) Thank you. Please.
Thank you very much, Secretary Azar, for your tremendous leadership. This really is an important day for me. I’ve been talking about drug price reductions for a long time. And now we’re doing things that nobody was, let’s say — because I’m speaking on behalf of all of us — bold enough to do. And they’re going to have a tremendous impact.
I also want to thank FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. Scott — stand up, Scott. You’ve done such an incredible job. Really, an incredible job. (Applause.) And CMS Administrator Seema Verma for joining us. Seema, thank you very much. Seema, great job. Great job. (Applause.)
I’m thrilled to be here at the Department of Health and Human Services, and I want to thank everybody. I understand that it’s been decades since the last President came here. And I’m very surprised that President Obama didn’t come here for Obamacare. Explain that one to me. (Laughter.) But he didn’t.
But it’s a great honor to be here. You do an incredible job. You really do an incredible job. So I thank you.
Since the day I took office, I have made reducing drug prices one of my highest priorities. Last year, the FDA approved more than 1,000 low-cost generics — the most in the history of our country. This year, we beat that record, approving even more generics. These new approvals are leading to cheaper competitive alternatives for lifesaving drugs like the EpiPen, saving Americans almost $9 billion a year last year alone.
Since releasing my drug pricing blueprint in May, 16 drug companies reduced their list prices, rolled back increases, or froze their prices for the rest of the year. We called a few of those companies recently, where they raised their prices, and I guess maybe it was one of the times that I realized how powerful the presidency is, because they immediately rolled their prices back to where they started. And those companies know who we’re talking about, and we appreciate it very much.
Earlier this month, I signed two bills to lower the cost of prescription drugs: the “Know the Lowest Price Act” — “Know the Lowest Price Act,” it’s a big thing — and the “Patient Right to Know Act.” And, by the way, put those two together and you have a complicated deal. (Laughter.) Sounds simple, but that one is not. Ending the unjust gag clauses once and for all — where you’d go into a drugstore and the pharmacist wouldn’t even be allowed to talk about alternatives or pricing. How ridiculous is that? Think of it — how ridiculous. That’s not going to take place anymore. And, actually, the pharmacists are very happy about it.
Patients now have the right to know the lowest price and most affordable alternative available at their pharmacy.
Today, we are here to announce another bold and historic action to bring down the price of prescription drugs. With the action I am unveiling today, the United States will finally begin to confront one of the most unfair practices — almost unimaginable that it hasn’t been taken care of long before this — that drives up the cost of medicine in the United States.
We’re taking aim at the global freeloading that forces American consumers to subsidize lower prices in foreign countries through higher prices in our country. And I’ve seen it for years, and I never understood. Same company, same box, same pill, made in the exact same location. And you’ll go to some countries, and it would be 20 percent the cost of what we pay, and in some cases much less than that.
And I’d say, “Why is this?” I never knew that I would be able to stand here before you and have a chance to fix it. And that’s what we’re doing. We’re fixing it. That’s called “real-life experience,” I guess.
For decades, other countries have rigged the system so that American patients are charged much more — and in some cases much, much more — for the exact same drug. In other words, Americans pay more so that other countries can pay less. Very simple. That’s exactly what it is. It’s wrong. It’s unfair. It’s not surprising. I’ve seen trade deals where it’s far more costly to us than even this. And we’re changing them also.
Foreign countries even threaten to disrespect our patents if they are not given cheaper prices on drugs. So they’re not going to even look at the patents. They’ve been very, very disrespectful, previously, to our country and to all of the things that we stand for. And especially, they would disrespect patents when it came to American-made drugs.
The American middle class is effectively funding virtually all drug research and development for the entire planet. So we are paying for it. We are subsidizing it. Everybody else is benefitting. And they are paying nothing toward research and development.
The world reaps the benefits of American genius and innovation, while American citizens — and especially our great seniors, who are hit the hardest — pick up the tab. But no longer.
Here are just a few examples: For one eye medication that helps prevent blindness, Medicare pays over $1 billion dollars a year. If we paid the prices other nations pay, we’d bring the $1 billion down to $187 million dollars a year. It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?
We spend more than $1 billion a year on two drugs to treat bone disease, but we could save more than $800 billion [million] dollars — think of that — $800 billion [million] saving for our seniors by paying the prices other countries pay. Nothing special — just the prices that other countries pay. That’s the way the United States has been disrespected for too long in too many ways.
One common cancer drug is nearly seven times as expensive for Medicare as it is for other countries. This is a highly used and very effective drug. And it’s seven times more expensive. Not fair. This happens because the government pays whatever price the drug companies set without any negotiation whatsoever.
Not anymore. Under our new plan, the Department of Health and Human Services would allow Medicare to determine the price it pays for certain drugs based on the cheaper prices paid by other nations. Some people call it “favored nations clauses.” We have them in business. We have them in a lot of different contracts that I’ve seen over the years and been part of. “Favored nations” — so think of that.
So, we’re paying a price based on the price that other nations are paying. That’s what we’re going to pay. No longer seven times more. No longer 10 times, 11 times, even 12 times more — I’ve seen examples of paying the same price. I’m talking about billions and billions of savings to people. To people.
We will no longer accept the inflated prices being charged to our seniors. I had a congressman — respected congressman — come to the Oval Office and say, “Sir, for my constituents, drug pricing is more important than healthcare.” And I said, “Explain that to me.” But he actually said “drug prices” — I’ve never forgotten the expression — “drug pricing.” We know how important healthcare is. “Drug pricing is even more important for my constituents.”
At long last, the drug companies and foreign countries will be held accountable for how they rigged the system against American consumers.
This is a revolutionary change. Nobody has had the courage to do it, or they just didn’t want to do it. And this is a change for the people. This is not a change for industry or for companies or for pharma. This is a change for the people. It will be substantially a reduction in drug prices for our people and our senior citizens. Tremendous, tremendous difference.
Our plan will also fix a broken payment system where doctors are reimbursed more if they prescribe a much more expensive drug. Under our new proposed payment system, doctors will be paid a flat rate — and when you think of it, it’s like being a contractor or anything else — if it’s an expensive drug or a less expensive drug, it’s the same. Doesn’t take any more.
And I think this will be good in terms of the pricing of the drug; it’d be fantastic for that. But it will also be much better for patients and it very well may be better for doctors.
This follows other significant actions that we have taken to protect Medicare for our great seniors. We have given the plans that serve more than 45 million seniors on Medicare Part D and 20 million seniors on Medicare Advantage new tools to negotiate lower prices.
Thanks to our actions, this year, premiums for both Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage have — and I’ll give you a word that you haven’t ever heard — ever heard — have “gone down.” (Laughter.) You’ve never heard that word. (Applause.)
True. True. Gone down. And now they’re going to go substantially down.
Sadly, a majority of Democrats in the House of Representatives have co-sponsored a very socialist healthcare plan that would destroy Medicare, terminate Medicare Advantage, and outlaw the employer-sponsored healthcare plans of 157 million Americans.
We think that they’re going to actually come along with us when they see what we’re doing. We think. We hope. It’s something that makes no sense any other way. So we really think that can be bipartisan. It happened to be a Democrat that told me how important drug pricing was. It wasn’t a Republican in this case; it was a Democrat.
Under this administration, we will always protect Medicare for our great seniors. And we will always protect Americans with preexisting conditions. Always.
In every action we take, we are putting America first. And this is very much about putting America first. We get tired of having people go to other countries to literally fill prescriptions. And you know where I’m talking about.
We’re fighting for lower drug prices, which will now be automatic. It will be automatic and very substantial. Lower premiums, where we’ve done a really god job with healthcare in bringing the premiums down to a much lower level — much more acceptable level. And we’re going to be soon announcing some things that will really have a tremendous and positive impact on healthcare also. And better healthcare, very importantly, for every single American.
So I just want to thank everybody in this room. You’re outstanding people. I know how hard you work. I know how important your work is, how brilliant your work has to be, and how complex a job you have. You have a very complex job. You have everything. You have probably every single element of life in the work you do.
But I just want to let you know, the American people very much appreciate — have great respect for you. I think they’ll even have more. That will go up very significantly when they see their drug prices falling. They’re going to say, “What’s happened? They must have made a mistake.” (Laughter.) It’s true. They’re going to go up to the counter; they’re going to say, “Did you make a mistake?” Some won’t say that, they’ll just think it. (Laughter.) And some might say, “Did you make a mistake?” But you’re going to see a big reduction.
I want to thank everybody very much. It’s an honor to be here. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
2:27 P.M. EDT