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Gouging for Drugs

The horror stories are rampant, people whose very lives depend upon the prescription drugs they must take being gouged by the pharmaceutical companies that, when criticized, say, "Oh, we need to charge that much to cover the cost of research and development."

HIV drugs. Drugs to treat Alzheimers disease. The EpiPen. On and on. In fact, the problem became so serious that even Donald Trump promised to do something about it after he became President.

So what has he done?

He nominated a big time drug company executive, Alexander M. Azar, who ran the U.S. affiliate of Eli Lilly & Co. to lead the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which is responsible for managing Medicare, Medicaid and carries out federal health care policy.

So Wednesday, when he testified at his nomination hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, there was considerable skepticism from senators from both political parties about whether he would really do anything to curb those unconscionably high prescription drug prices that we all must pay.

"Yea, sure," seemed to be the reaction when Azar made this statement:

“Drug prices are too high. The president made this clear and so have I. I believe I can bring the skills and experience to the table that can help us address these issues while still encouraging discovery to make sure Americans have access to high quality care.”

Azar endorsed the Trump administration's drug price proposal that would promote competition from lower-cost generic drugs, close regulatory loopholes that can extend drug company monopolies, and make sure companies are adequately compensated in overseas markets.

But when Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) asked if he would work on a plan to safely import lower cost prescription drugs from Canada and Europe, Azar poo-pooed that idea, saying previous administrations of both parties had rejected that approach.

“They’ve been wrong and beholden to the drug companies,” Paul responded, threatening to withhold his support unless Azar came up with a proposal to make it work.

“We all have our doubts, because Big Pharma manipulates the system to keep prices high,” Paul said.

We all have our doubts, indeed. Looks like another case of Trump putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop. And we all will get stuck paying the price.

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