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White House Pushes Back Against Skyrocketing Pharmaceuticals

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Even though his signature piece of legislation, Obamacare, promises "affordable care," President Barack Obama says he is continually frustrated by the high prices of many pharmaceuticals. That's why the Obama White House and Department of Health and Human Services hosted a summit Friday calling on drug manufacturers, insurers, employers and consumer advocates to harness the problem.

"Why must I worry about insolvency as much as I worry about cancer?" asked consumer advocate Heather Block at Friday's event.

This morning's New York Times reports Obama is calling for greater disclosure regarding drug prices, but the president of Novartis Pharmaceuticals pushed back, saying "that widespread alarm about the high cost of many specialty drugs was unfounded."

The HHS announced during Friday's summit that retail sales of prescription drugs totaled $305 billion in 2014, accounting for 9.9 percent of all health spending. Additionally, officials said, retail drug sales are expected to hit $564 billion, or 10.4 percent of all health spending by 2024.

The Times reports Congress is unlikely to take up the issue in its coming year, but the White House might still take executive action to slow the growth of drug spending in federal health programs.