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Burwell Calls for HHS to Negotiate Drug Prices

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell on Thursday said the federal government should be able to negotiate drug prices for high-cost and specialty drugs.

“One of the most important tools that we could gain would be an ability to negotiate,” Burwell said at the Atlantic’s Washington Ideas Forum.

Burwell’s comments came in response to a question about the outrage over EpiPen pricing. The uproar may have been avoided if Medicare and Medicaid could negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies such as Mylan Pharmaceuticals, she said.

Burwell’s call is in line with President Obama’s fiscal year 2017 budget request, which proposed allowing the HHS secretary to negotiate prices for high-cost and specialty biologics with drug companies. Proponents of the idea believe the move would lower drug prices and government spending, while opponents say the secretary would have less leverage than private drug plans.

Both Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump have suggested the government should negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies to lower drug spending.