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Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer on Tuesday announced that it would roll back planned drug price increases for July — following a discussion with President Donald Trump, who had just criticized the company on Twitter a day before.
"We applaud Pfizer for this decision and hope other companies do the same. Great news for the American people!" Trump said on Twitter Tuesday evening.
The president said he and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar met with Pfizer CEO Ian Read to discuss Trump's "drug pricing blueprint" and came away with a vow from the company to roll back price increases "so American patients don’t pay more."
A Pfizer statement added details, explaining that its prices would be "deferred" to levels seen 10 days ago "as soon as technically possible, and the prices will remain in effect until the earlier of when the president’s blueprint goes into effect or the end of the year — whichever is sooner."
The idea was "to give the president an opportunity to work on his blueprint to strengthen the healthcare system and provide more access for patients," according to the statement from the company that makes popular drugs Viagra, Lipitor and Zoloft.
In a statement, Azar called the move "a step in the right direction and a major win for American patients."
The president's plan to lower drug prices, which was detailed in May, is an initiative meant to fulfill a campaign promise. It seeks to increase competition among drug companies, have better government negotiations with pharmaceutical representatives, and to create incentives that would reduce patients' costs.
Critics, however, say the Trump administration is ignoring obvious leverage, mainly the prospect of using Medicare and its customer base of roughly 60 million to negotiate directly with the big pharmaceutical firms.
On June 12 U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., expressed doubt that Trump could prod Big Pharma to lower prices within weeks, as he had promised at the end of May. A colleague and Warren surveyed 10 top drug makers and came away with zero commitment to the president's call for price drops, she said.
"He said there would be massive decreases in prices within two weeks," Warren said. "It's been two weeks and there have been no decreases and an indication of increase."
The commitment from Pfizer comes a day after Trump tweeted that the drug maker and others in the business "should be ashamed that they have raised drug prices for no reason."
"They are merely taking advantage of the poor & others unable to defend themselves, while at the same time giving bargain basement prices to other countries in Europe & elsewhere," Trump wrote. "We will respond!"