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Trump touts faster generic drug approvals to bring down prices
President Trump delivers his State of the Union speech. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

President Trump promised to bring down the high cost of prescription drugs, pointing to recent major strides by the Food and Drug Administration in speeding approval of generic drugs.

“To speed access to breakthrough cures and affordable generic drugs, last year the FDA approved more new and generic drugs and medical devices than ever before in our history,” the president told Congress.

Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services released a report saying that the FDA approved 1,027 generic drugs in one year, more than any other single year in the agency’s history, including the previous record of 800 approvals in 2016. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has pointed to increasing the number of generic drugs as a way of lowering prescription drug prices in the United States, where medications cost more than in any other developed country.

But Trump didn’t mention a much more controversial idea, one championed by Democrats: Allowing Medicare to negotiate down the price of drugs with the private companies that manufacture them. On the campaign trail, Trump bucked his party in calling for such negotiations, but has backed away from the idea since becoming president.

Instead, Trump said only that he plans to focus on drug prices in the coming year – and vowed they’ll get less expensive.

“One of my greatest priorities is to reduce the price of prescription drugs,” Trump said. “That is why I have directed my administration to make fixing the injustice of high drug prices one of our top priorities. Prices will come down.”

Trump also told lawmakers to pass a federal version of so-called “Right to Try” laws, already passed by multiple states to allow terminally ill patients access to medications not yet fully approved by the FDA. Vice President Pence recently tweeted support of a federal “Right to Try” law, and the idea appears to be gaining momentum in Congress although some experts question how useful it would be.

“People who are terminally ill should not have to go from country to country to seek a cure – I want to give them a chance right here at home,” Trump said. “It is time for the Congress to give these wonderful Americans the ‘right to try.’”

Fact-checking and analysis of Trump’s State of the Union 2018 address

The Washington Post is live-blogging President Trump’s first official State of the Union address to Congress tonight. The speech begins at 9p.m. Eastern time and the president is expected to be, well, presidential.

Post national reporters Ashley Parker and Michael Scherer write that Trump aides say “he will deliver a unifying speech on American values and patriotism, one that touches on everything from the just-passed Republican tax plan and the new immigration proposal to trade, infrastructure and national security. The question is whether the swirl of conflict and diversion that has monopolized so much of his first year in office will distract from the message he is trying to deliver.”

The Post’s chief congressional scribe, Paul Kane, points out that it’s not just Trump whose behavior can be unpredictable — it’s also that of “mercurial” congressional Republicans when it comes to the president.

From Paul: “Sometimes they are in bitter fights with Trump, challenging his nationalist policy approach as an affront to traditional conservatism while also questioning his mental fitness for office. Other times they drift into a deep public swoon for the president that seems to directly contradict their previous criticism.”

Check back here for frequent updates on the speech, including real-time fact-checking and analysis of what the president says on key issues like the economy, national security and infrastructure.