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Trump decries "astronomical" U.S. drug prices

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Trump's 2-for-1 regulation special, and other MoneyWatch headlines 01:10

President Donald Trump wants to lower drug prices and bring pharmaceutical industry jobs back to the U.S.

“The U.S. drug companies have produced extraordinary results for our country, but the pricing has been astronomical for our country,” he said after meeting with drug industry executives on Tuesday at the White House. 

The U.S. needs to “do better” for Americans, Mr. Trump added, promising to boost industry competition to bring down prices. 

Mylan CEO on EpiPen price hike and fixing the system 07:29

Mr. Trump also vowed to reduce the cost of Medicare and Medicaid, require foreign countries to help fund U.S. drug development, and speed approval of new drugs by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. He said he will soon name a “fantastic person” to head the agency.

Among those attending the meeting were leaders from the drug companies Novartis (NVS), Eli Lilly (LLY) Merck (MRK), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Amgen (AMGN), along with the head of the industry’s main lobbying group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

As an apparent inducement for drugmakers to shift jobs from their overseas facilities to the U.S., Mr. Trump said, “We’re going to be lowering taxes big league.” He also pledged to eliminate unnecessary regulations.

“I want you to manufacture in the United States,” he said.

Soaring drug prices in the U.S. have sparked public outrage and spurred congressional hearings in recent years. In 2016, for example, pharmaceutical giant Mylan drew fire for having jacked up the price of its anti-allergic reaction product EpiPen nearly 500 percent over seven years.

Yet drug industry experts said Mr. Trump faces a tall task pushing drugmakers -- among the most powerful industry lobbies on Capitol Hill -- into cutting their prices. 

7 biggest price hikes for Medicare's costliest drugs
7 biggest price hikes for Medicare's costliest drugs

“Despite the President using his bully pulpit and polling that shows the general public wants some sort of action on pharmaceutical prices, we believe the political power of the pharmaceutical industry, the powerful positions of key members of Congress and the view of key administration appointments make it unlikely that major, substantive action on drug pricing will occur in 2017,” said Chris Meekins, an analyst with investment banking operation FBR Research, said in a report.

Rep. Tom Price, R-Georgia, Mr. Trump’s pick to head the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has not expressed support for the president’s view that Medicare should negotiate lower drug prices, Meekins noted.    

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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