By Damian Paletta

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump on Tuesday told pharmaceutical chief executives that he wanted them to bring drug prices "way down," but he promised them he would curb regulations and lower tax rates to boost their competitiveness.

At a White House meeting, Mr. Trump said Medicare and Medicaid are spending too much money on drugs, and he said in many cases these federal programs don't have enough bargaining power when they are purchasing drugs.

"We have to get prices down for a lot of reasons," Mr. Trump told the executives. "We have no choice. For Medicare, for Medicaid. We have to get the prices way down."

Mr. Trump said there was "price fixing by the biggest dog in the market -- Medicare," and said this must stop. He said, for example, that he could buy aspirin more cheaply at a pharmacy than the U.S. would pay for the same product.

The morning meeting between Mr. Trump and the executives is one in a series of gatherings he has held with business leaders and others during his first two weeks in office, as he works to find more ways to boost economic growth.

He added that he would be working to scale back regulations he said force pharmaceutical companies to spend years and billions of dollars developing drugs before they can get federal approval. He said he would soon nominate someone to head the Food and Drug Administration who would help with this overhaul.

"Instead of 9,000 pages, 100 pages," Mr. Trump said, offering an illustration of how the regulations would be scaled back.

Mr. Trump said that foreign countries are "freeloading" off the way the U.S. government allows drug companies to bedeveloped here and then sold overseas at unfairly low prices and also by devaluing their currencies.

"We sit there like a bunch of dummies," he said.

Finally, Mr. Trump said he would pressure these companies to do more of their manufacturing in the U.S. instead of overseas. He said the business climate in the U.S. will change soon in part because he is committed to lowering the corporate tax rate and streamlining regulations. Pharmaceutical companies traditionally pay a low tax rate because of the way they structure their businesses, but they have still pushed hard for a lower rate for years.

During the meeting, Robert Bradway, chief executive of Amgen Inc., told Mr. Trump that his company would be "adding 1,600 jobs" in the U.S. this year, something the president praised.

Write to Damian Paletta at damian.paletta@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 31, 2017 10:27 ET (15:27 GMT)

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