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Trump vows to get drug prices lower, tells drugmakers he wants them to manufacture in the US

President Donald Trump met with leading drugmakers at the White House on Tuesday, jawboning them to produce their medications in the United States and to cut "astronomical" drug prices.

Trump also blasted foreign countries, which he said have been "freeloading" on the United States with price controls that limit what their own citizens can be charged for medications. And he vowed to use the purchasing power of the U.S. government, the world's largest drug purchaser, to push the price of medications down.

President Donald Trump meets with leaders of the pharmaceutical industry in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 31, 2017.
Nicholas Kamm | AFP | Getty Images
President Donald Trump meets with leaders of the pharmaceutical industry in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 31, 2017.

"We have to get the prices way down," Trump said.

"We have to get lower prices, we have to get even better innovation, and I want you to move your companies back to the United States. I want you to manufacture in the United States."

"You have to get your companies back here, we have to make products back" here, Trump said.

Participants in the meeting included the CEOs of Merck, Amgen, Eli Lilly, Novartis and Johnson & Johnson, as well as the head of the trade group PhRMA.

Trump told them he wants to make it easier for pharmaceutical companies to win regulatory approval for their products.

"You're going to get your prices either approved, or not approved," the president said. "But it's going to be a quick process. It's not going to take 15 years."

In remarks to reporters while flanked by the CEOs, Trump said, "The U.S. drug companies have produced extraordinary results for our country, but the prices have been astronomical for our country."

"We're going to be changing a lot of the rules," Trump said. "We're going to be ending global freeloading. Foreign price controls reduce the resources of American drug companies to finance drug and R&D innovation. I think you people know very well, it's very unfair to this country."

"Our trade policy will prioritize that foreign countries pay their fair share for U.S.-manufactured drug, so our drug companies have greater financial resources to accelerate development of new cures, and I think that's so important," Trump said. "Right now it's very unfair what other countries are doing to us."

The president said that "competition is the key to lower drug prices," and he promised to "oppose anything that makes it harder for smaller, younger drug companies to take the risk" of bringing a medication to market.

Trump also decried what he said was the situation where "I go to a drug store to buy aspirin [and] the aspirin costs me less than what the United States pays for aspirin."

The president was referring to regulations that Medicare, the federally run health coverage program for primarily the elderly, is barred by law from negotiating drug prices.

Correction: This story was revised to note that Medicare is primarily for the elderly.