FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump reacts with supporters during a campaign rally in Panama City, Florida, U.S., May 8, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump slammed the pharmaceutical industry for high prices of prescription drugs on Thursday and vowed to allow U.S. states to buy medicines from other countries if they cost less.
Trump, who campaigned on a platform to reduce drug prices for U.S. consumers, has taken few concrete steps to lower medication costs since taking office in 2017, and has so far largely relied on personal talks with company executives and industry promises to voluntarily roll back prices or limit price hikes.
At a White House event on hospital billing, the Republican president criticized drug companies for what he said were unfair practices that gave other countries better deals than the United States.
“We may allow states to buy drugs in other countries if we can buy them for … a substantially less price,” Trump said. “The drug companies have treated us very, very unfairly.”
Most other developed nations directly or indirectly negotiate drug pricing with companies, and in some cases may deny access to medicines they deem too expensive, while pricing in the United States is left to the free market and set by the drugmakers.
It was not immediately clear how Trump’s administration would move to import medicines from abroad – an idea that has been floated for years but never implemented given U.S. regulations to ensure safety and efficacy and staunch opposition from the industry.
“The rules and regulations within our country have been absolutely atrocious,” Trump said.
“We will allow them, with certain permissions, to go to other countries if they can buy them for 40, 50, 60 percent less,” Trump said. “It’s pretty pathetic but that’s the way it works.”
Reporting by Steve Holland and Tim Ahmann; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Berkrot