May 11 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump on Friday laid out a series of plans to make pharmaceutical companies more competitive, accusing them of "getting away with murder" with high out-of-pocket costs for consumers.
"The drug lobby is making an absolute fortune at the expense of American consumers," Trump said in a speech at the White House Rose Garden. "But under this administration, we are putting American patients first."
Among the strategies the White House is pursuing to drive competition include advancing biosimilars and generic drugs, including prices on drugmakers' advertising, increasing transparency through the Medicare drug-pricing dashboard and eliminating "gag rules" that prevent pharmacists from advising patients on how they can pay less out of pocket.
Trump also said he wants to reduce "regulatory burdens" and eliminate "middlemen," third-party pharmacy benefit managers who negotiate between pharmacies and drug manufacturers on prices and discounts.
"Our plan will end the dishonest double-dealing that allows the middleman to pocket rebates and discounts that should be passed on to consumers and patients," Trump said.
Trump also spoke against lobbyists, on which he said pharmaceutical companies spent nearly $280 million in 2017, more than tobacco, oil and defense contractors combined.
"Everyone involved in the broken system -- the drug makers, insurance companies, distributors, pharmacy benefit managers, and many others -- contribute to the problem," he said. "Government has also been part of the problem because previous leaders turned a blind eye to this incredible abuse."
Trump has said reducing the cost of prescription drugs, by allowing drug companies to introduce cheaper versions of medications already on the market, would have the side benefit of reducing the cost of health insurance without intensive government regulations.
The president promised that his administration would work with Congress in the coming weeks to pass legislation executing his proposals.
"We will work every day to ensure all Americans have access to the quality, affordable medication they need and they deserve," Trump said. "And we will not rest until the job of unfair pricing is a total victory for the USA. It will happen, and it's going to happen quickly."
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer criticized Trump for not targeting the pharmaceutical companies more aggressively and for his stance that other countries that currently pay less than Americans for the same drugs should pay more.
"Unfortunately, the president's proposal hardly puts patients first. The idea that asking Germany to charge their citizens more for drugs will help Americans is a cop-out and the height of absurdity that nobody believes," Schumer said.
"Democrats have offered #ABetterDeal on prescription drugs through true transparency, Medicare Part D negotiation, and a cop on the beat to police and stop exorbitant price hikes. We hope the president will get tough on the rising cost of drugs, and work with us on real solutions," he added.
A report released by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in March said brand-name drug prices were increasing at 10 times the rate of inflation.
The report found prices increased an average of 12 percent every year for the top 20 most commonly prescribed brand-name drugs under the Medicare Part D program from 2012 to 2017.