HHS Secretary Alex Azar confirms Trump will unveil drug pricing policies on Friday

Alex Azar
HHS Secretary Alex Azar said the president would unveil his drug pricing policy plans on Friday. (Wwsgconnect)

HHS Secretary Alex Azar confirmed President Donald Trump's long-awaited speech on the administration's plan to lower drug prices is slated for Friday afternoon. 

The Department of Health and Human Services head said that the delayed policy proposals would build on the president's 2019 budget proposal and plans unveiled by the administration earlier this year. He made the announcement as part of his speech at the American Hospital Association's annual meeting on Wednesday morning. 

Trump wants to go "much, much further" than what has already been outlined, Azar said. 

"President Trump believes it is a top priority to build a system that puts American patients first, and HHS is focused on solving a number of the problems that plague drug markets," he said. 

RELATED: HHS Secretary—We need to drive 'broader change' in price transparency 

Azar made similar statements at the World Health Care Congress last week, also saying that the administration's drug pricing plan would build on the White House's budget. In the budget proposal, Trump pushed for caps on out-of-pocket spending in Medicare Part B and for moving the Part B program into Medicare Part D to improve negotiating power. 

The White House Council of Economic Advisers released a set of policies aimed at drug prices in February, including plans to push pharmacy benefit managers to share rebates directly with consumers. 

Skeptics have warned that the plans released so far are unlikely to be effective, as they're policies championed by the pharmaceutical industry.  

RELATED: State solutions to bring down drug prices face steep resistance from drug industry 

The president was expected to speak on drug pricing policy in April, but the presentation was delayed. The speech was also rumored to be set for the beginning of this week. 

Azar joked that the president's speech could have been held earlier this week if not for Trump's announcement that he would pull out of the Iran nuclear deal. That delay is one of "many complaints I have against Iran," Azar said. 

Other focuses: Interoperability, price transparency 

Azar's speech on Wednesday was light on details about drug pricing policy, but he did dive more deeply into one of the four prongs of his agenda to advance value-based care: interoperability and data analytics. 

Interoperability has been a hot-button topic in healthcare dating back to Azar's first stint at HHS in the Bush administration, he said. Though progress has been made, there is still work to be done to ensure patients can access their data. 

"New technology has made it possible for the government to be focused on the what, not the how, of interoperability: Patients ought to have access to their data, period—however you want to accomplish it," Azar said. 

RELATED: HHS Secretary Alex Azar outlines 4-point plan to accelerate shift to a value-based system 

He also touted work at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in this space, such as the agency's recent announcement that it would release Medicare Advantage claims data and the Blue Button 2.0 program

He also reiterated the administration's focus on price transparency, another key part of HHS' value-based care strategy. Research shows that market forces align with patients when they're empowered to make their own healthcare choices, Azar said.