Other countries are getting a 'free ride' on prescription drug prices, says former pharma exec

  • Former pharmaceutical exec Fred Hassan says countries like Canada, Japan and some of Western Europe are not paying enough for innovative U.S. drug research and technologies.
  • "They do get a free ride to some extent from all the good work that gets done in this country," he says.
  • Prescription drugs from the United States, with its innovative technology, are something other countries want and should pay for, Hassan says.

Perhaps other countries should be paying more for America's innovative prescription drugs, former pharmaceutical exec Fred Hassan told CNBC.

"A lot of wealthy countries, including our neighbor to the north, a lot of the countries in Western Europe, Japan, they should be paying more," Hassan, former chairman and CEO of Schering-Plough, which was acquired by Merck in 2009, said Friday on "Power Lunch."

"I don't think the industry has had enough pressure put on some of these countries to loosen up," said Hassan, who is also a CNBC contributor. "Because they do get a free ride to some extent from all the good work that gets done in this country."

"This has always been a problem," he added.

In May, President Donald Trump introduced his "American Patients First" plan, an attempt to bring down drug prices at home by forcing foreign countries to pay more — those nations often rely on their welfare systems to make drug prices more affordable in their countries. Trump said his plan would lower prescription drugs list prices and out-of-pocket costs for patients in the U.S.

That same month, during a speech at the White House, Trump criticized foreign countries for paying less than the U.S. does for prescription drugs, calling it "global freeloading."

But, critics said the move wouldn't work. Instead, they said, it would raise prices for some people.

A pharmacy technician fills a prescription inside a Wal-Mart store in Trevose, Pa.
Mike Mergen | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A pharmacy technician fills a prescription inside a Wal-Mart store in Trevose, Pa.

On Friday, Hassan reasoned that innovative technology in the U.S. is something other countries want and should pay for.

"The American consumers are paying a lot for the R&D," he said.

— CNBC's Berkeley Lovelace Jr. contributed to this report.