Azar explains how HHS can address prescription drug prices 'with a pen'

President Donald Trump
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, left, began his work this week elaborating on President Donald Trump's plan to reduce prescription drug prices. (The White House)

President Trump's plan to curb drug prices will allow Medicare to negotiate prices in a "more aggressive approach than has ever been tried before," Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Monday.

And he can do much of it without Congress' help, Azar said. 

Azar, along with CMS Administrator Seema Verma and FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, explained how they expect to execute the plan President Trump announced Friday aimed at curbing drug prices in the U.S. 

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And Azar said he intends to use his ability to regulate, modify programs, conduct demonstration programs and experiment through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation.

"This pen has a lot of power at HHS," Azar said, picking up a generic ballpoint pen that sat in front of him as he addressed a room of reporters. "And we intend to use the full scope of the power contained in this pen on any of these rather than sitting back and waiting for Congress."

Here's a look at what else he had to say about what his office can do with a pen.

Medicare negotiating power: "You've probably heard Medicare could save tons of money by directly negotiating drug prices. This just isn't true," Azar said, pointing to Congressional Budget Office estimates which support his statement. 

RELATED: Alex Azar to resurrect Medicare Part B price bidding program

Instead, Azar said the administration will issue a request for proposal to make new use of an alternative system for buying Part B drugs called a Competitive Acquisition Program and has called for HHS to merge Medicare Part B into Medicare Part D, which does have a system for negotiating prices.

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