Trump abandons key campaign promise on prescription medications

A pharmacy employee dumps pills into a pill counting machine as she fills a prescription while working at a pharmacy in New York
A pharmacy employee dumps pills into a pill counting machine as she fills a prescription while working at a pharmacy in New York December 23, 2009.

One of the few key areas on which Donald Trump broke with Republican Party orthodoxy was lowering prices on prescription drugs. In fact, as regular readers know, he complained bitterly shortly before taking office about the pharmaceutical industry’s powerful lobbyists, and said drug companies are “getting away with murder.”

The president has even accused the drug industry of corruption, arguing that pharmaceutical companies contribute “massive amounts of money” to politicians as part of a scheme to keep the cost of medicines higher.

He even had a bold idea: if elected, Trump told voters, he'd leverage Medicare's buying power to lower the cost of prescription medication. Shortly after the Republican's inauguration, the White House said the new president "absolutely" stood by that position.

And then, his posture changed, to the point that Trump put a pharmaceutical company executive in charge of the Department of Health and Human Services. And if that wasn't enough to cement this president's role as a key ally of drug makers, today did the trick.

President Donald Trump on Friday vowed to lower drug prices for American consumers, outlining a strategy that focuses on private-sector incentives but would not allow Medicare to use its leverage as the biggest player in the market to directly negotiate better bargains for its subscribers. [...]While Trump said his proposal would give Medicare "new tools to negotiate lower prices" — such as allowing Medicare to change its formularies or benefit designs to respond to spikes in generic-drug prices — senior administration officials acknowledged in a briefing prior to his remarks that there is no plan to allow the program to directly barter with drug companies.

Or put another way, just days after Trump boasted, "When I make promises, I keep them," he audaciously broke one of his most populist promises.

A Washington Post analysis added today, "...Trump didn't just propose the change on the campaign trail; he said those who opposed it were in the pockets of the drug companies — a criticism that could now just as aptly be applied to him."

Drug companies -- the ones the president accused of corruption and  “getting away with murder" -- saw their stock prices soar after Trump's speech, reinforcing the impression that they, not consumers, are the key beneficiaries of the new White House plan.