Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price told a House appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday that his agency is working with President Donald Trump on a plan to bring down the cost of pharmaceutical drugs.
Citing Trump’s numerous mentions since he took office of a plan for a new "bidding" system, Price said skyrocketing drug prices is an issue that members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are looking to target.
In defending Trump’s proposed "skinny" budget plan, Price did not offer any additional details on what this plan to reduce US drug prices will be, though presumably it will be linked to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ ability to negotiate or "bid" more.
Trump told the Congressional Black Caucus, according to a readout of the meeting, last week: "We’re going to bid on drug prices, and we’re going to try and have the lowest prices anywhere in the world, from really the highest. And that’s not only the drugs, it’s prescription drugs...So we’re going to be instituting a very, very strong bidding process. We’ll probably need some legislation, but we’re going to do it regardless. We have to do it. And we’re going to get drug prices way down, way down."
Price also did not elaborate on Trump’s call to double the user fees to offset cuts to FDA’s budget, though more details are expected in mid-May.
Trump previously called to further slash FDA regulations to ease the process of medical product approvals.
Price also expressed his support for Trump’s plan to further reduce the budget of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) by 20% in FY 2018, on top of an additional $1.2 billion in cuts for FY 2017.
"About 30% of the grant money that goes out is used for indirect expenses," Price told the subcommittee on NIH grant funds, noting that "indirect" can mean administrative expenses or other building funds not tied to research.
"This is the first step to be able to get a bigger bang for the buck," he said, noting that "simply throwing money at a problem" is not a solution.
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) said the funding cuts for NIH would make it nearly impossible for the agency to operate. Other representatives from both sides of the aisle noted that Price in the past voted to increase NIH’s funding levels and they vowed to not cut the agency’s budget further.