HHS offers scant evidence Trump’s drug blueprint putting brakes on price hikes image

S&P Global Market Intelligence, August 22, 2018
Donna Young, quoting Rachel Sachs (Academic Fellow Alumna)

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Health and Human Services provided scant evidence, filled with caveats, to back up its chief's claim that drugmakers were responding to the Trump administration's plan to lower Americans' costs for prescription medicines by taking fewer hikes in prices and reducing them more.

In a brief analysis posted online on Aug. 21 — a day after the HHS Secretary made the claims — the agency acknowledged it was unable to show the administration's drug pricing blueprint had resulted in any reductions in spending on prescription medicines. It also was not able to conclude much of anything about the magnitude of the price changes themselves.

HHS also relied on a single source of information to conduct its internal analysis, which was not vetted by any outside independent entity.

The four-page analysis, conducted by HHS' Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, was made public a day after the administration outlined the actions it has taken over the past 100 days since President Donald Trump unveiled his May 11 plan aimed at bringing down Americans' costs of prescription medicines.

Since then, there have been 60% fewer brand-name product price increases, versus the same period in 2017, and 54% more drops in innovator and generic drug prices, HHS Secretary Alex Azar told reporters during an Aug. 20 briefing.

But HHS offered little data to support Azar's claim or evidence it would have any real significance for patients anytime soon.

"The administration seems to be feeling a need to deliver results quickly on the drug pricing front, and so they are pointing to metrics like fewer price increases as compared with last year, rather than metrics that will be meaningful to patients, because they have not yet achieved success on that front," health policy expert Rachel Sachs, an associate professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis, told S&P Global Market Intelligence.

 

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