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American Opinion: An unimpressive plan to lower drug prices

In what he described Friday as "the most sweeping action in history to lower the price of prescription drugs for the American people," President Donald Trump ignored every step that would make a real difference. Indeed, a list of the actions he left out of his "blueprint" could serve as a guide to good policy.

Trump neglected, to begin, his campaign promise to let Medicare use its vast purchasing power to negotiate prices. He said nothing in support of bipartisan legislation in Congress that would get generic drugs to market faster - the best way to lower prices for both government and private insurers. He didn't mention letting Americans import medicines from other countries that carefully control drug quality. And he said not a word about the comparative effectiveness studies that the U.S. needs to judge what individual medicines are worth.

Instead, he offered mostly timid and familiar ideas. Cut red tape at the Food and Drug Administration to bring drugs to market faster. Give individual insurers in Medicare's Part D drug program a little more room to negotiate prices for subsets of beneficiaries. Adjust the rules on how pharmacy benefit managers negotiate rebates.

These small changes are fine, as far as they go. So is Trump's suggestion, borrowed from some states, to outlaw contractual gag rules that prevent pharmacists from telling customers how to save money on their medicines. ... But taken together, all these steps aren't enough to appreciably lower U.S. drug prices.

... In fact, since getting elected, the president's zeal to take on Big Pharma has clearly weakened. ... Much bolder steps will be needed to make drug prices affordable for all Americans.