HHS nominee Alex Azar grilled on drug prices during Senate hearing: 4 things to know

High drug prices were a hot topic of discussion at HHS secretary nominee Alex Azar's Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday, reports USA Today.

Here are four things to know about Mr. Azar's stance on drug prices.

1. He agrees drug prices are too high. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., cited numerous drugs that more than doubled in price while Mr. Azar served as a drug executive at Eli Lilly. When asked if he ever lowered prices on any drugs during his tenure at the company, Mr. Azar said, "Drug prices are too high. I said that when I was at Lilly."

2. He cites a faulty drug system for high prices. Mr. Azar blamed the overall drug system for high prices, using Eli Lilly's insulin product Humalog as an example. While the list price for a vial of the drug has risen to $255, the amount Eli Lilly collects for the drug has remained flat. "No one company is going to fix that system," he told members of the Senate Finance Committee. "That's why I want to be here working with you."

3. He doesn't think HHS should negotiate prices with drugmakers. Mr. Azar does not support the proposal to allow HHS to directly negotiate drug prices with companies. To get a better deal than the private companies currently responsible for administering Medicare's drug benefit, HHS would have to create a list of drugs with approved coverage, limiting some treatments for beneficiaries. "I don't believe we want to go there in restricting patient access," Mr. Azar said.

4. He wants to tackle incentives fueling high drug prices. Redesigning the drug pricing system to reduce drugmakers' and pharmacy benefit managers' incentives for raising drug prices would be one of Mr. Azar's top priorities in addressing high medication costs.

"I don't know that there is any drug price of a branded product that has ever gone down from any company on any drug in the United States, because every incentive in this system is toward higher prices, and that is where we can do things together, working as the government, to get at this," Mr. Azar said.

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