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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Spartan Pharmacy in Brentwood was the site for a visit by the nation’s top health and human services official on Friday. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar listened to local folks about prescription drugs.

“I heard a lot about drug prices, as I should, because drug prices are too high,” Azar told KDKA money editor Jon Delano in an exclusive sit-down interview on Friday.

health human services secretary alex azar U.S. Health Secretary Visits Pittsburgh, Praises Efforts To Bring Down Prescription Drug Prices

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

In a brief press conference with Spartan owner and pharmacist Adam Rice and Center for Medicare Services Deputy Administrator Paul Mango, Secretary Azar touted a bi-partisan bill just signed into law by President Donald Trump, banning so-called gag clauses.

“These gag clauses are mechanisms by insurance companies to prevent your pharmacist from telling you that you could get a drug for less by simply paying out of pocket cash instead of running it through insurance,” said Azar.

Under the gag rule — now lifted — Rice could not tell patients about a cheaper way to buy the same drug.

“I had a patient with a high co-pay of $50 and a relatively inexpensive antibiotic where I could have intervened and charged her half as much,” said Rice.

Thanks to the new law, that has changed.

Besides this, Azar says the Trump administration is committed to bringing down drug prices.

Delano: “When are we going to see drug prices in the U.S. that are no more expensive than someone in Canada, Mexico, Europe, wherever, can buy?”

Azar: “The president is very frustrated that socialist systems outside the U.S., because they’re socialist, they pay less.”

Azar wants to find ways to lower drug prices. Banning the gag rule was a start.

So here’s the advice to consumers.

When you pick up your prescription drugs, ask if it’s cheaper to pay outside your insurance plan or pay under your insurance using your co-pay.

Your pharmacist is now able to answer that question honestly.