President Trump himself has been vocal on this issue in recent days, emphasizing that he wants to see real reform as opposed to the typical smoke and mirrors. The Trump administration says it's already developed a plan of attack towards that end, and that once it's enacted the results will be dramatically beneficial.
"Look, the president is not interested in any kind of cheap political theatrics," stated Azar during a recent segment on The Laura Ingraham Show.
"He wants results that really will deliver at the end of the day. You know, as appealing as some concepts might be on day one, you gotta play it out to, you know, to day 300 and see if it’s actually gonna save money."
One thing that's going to change is a sinister pricing strategy that Big Pharma employs to charge Americans more money than people from other countries for the same exact drugs. The Trump plan is to allow Americans to re-import these cheaper drugs after they're shipped out of the country, and possibly even blanket prohibit drug companies from charging different prices for the same drugs.
One prominent example of this was the EpiPen scandal in which drug companies suddenly began to charge nearly $300 per dose for the life-saving drug, which in reality only costs about $7 to produce.
Recognizing that this could cause pharmaceutical companies to pull out of smaller countries and simply charge Americans even more money for drugs, Azar says there are certain failsafes that will be put in place.
"I get it. I see the appeal on day one," he told the media about Big Pharma's likely response. "But what you have to do is peel the onion to see how things actually would work."
Another concern is that, should the plan work, Americans will need to be assured that the drugs being re-imported at lower costs are all legitimate and safe. Many counterfeit drugs are imported into the U.S. illegally already, and some of them are even showing up at licensed pharmacies.
"It's gotta be safe," says Azar. "It has to actually be effective and leading to a result of lower drug prices. And it's gotta respect choice and competition in our system for patients so that they don't have 'one size fits all.'"
The ability to order drugs online will always leave an open door for counterfeits to slip through, which is why the Trump administration is taking careful steps to see what works and what doesn't. But in no way is the president backing away from the issue as many mainstream news outlets are claiming.
Both Azar and President Trump have emphasized time and time again that they're open to hearing other ideas and options as to what will help make drugs more affordable for people in need. If people don't like the current iteration of the plan, then they're encouraged to offer input about other ideas that might be better.
"We are going to unleash the drug plans to go after Pharma and get discounts there," Azar says. "We are going to negotiate, and we're gonna do better bidding."
"We're gonna keep looking for any other options here. But right now, we've got the most comprehensive, hard-hitting plan of any Democrat or Republican president in history — with ideas that liberals, conservatives have never even thought of."
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