Trump announces two moves aimed at lowering drug prices

Henrietta Brewer
November 23, 2020

Trying to close out major unfinished business, the Trump administration issued regulations Friday that could lower the prices Americans pay for many prescription drugs.

In a few weeks, the administration will also finalize rules requiring federally funded health centers to pass drug company discounts on insulin and EpiPens directly to patients.

But in a time of political uncertainty, it's hard to say whether the rules will withstand expected legal challenges from the pharmaceutical industry or whether President-elect Joe Biden's administration will accept, amend or try to roll them back entirely.

The Biotechnology Innovation Organization, which represents biotech companies, said a Trump rule indexing US prices to foreign drug prices was politically motivated because a coronavirus vaccine was not announced before the November 3 election as the president had promised it would be.

The other will effectively ban drug makers from providing rebates to pharmacy benefit managers and insurers - a radical change in the way many drugs are priced and paid for in Medicare and Medicaid.

The second action announced on Friday aims to make US drug prices more competitive by linking prices paid for prescriptions under Medicare to prices charged for the same drugs in other countries. "I just hope they keep it".

Additionally, President Trump forged legal pathways to purchase drugs at cheaper prices from other countries including Canada.

Two top House Democrats - Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. That's called the "most favored nations" approach.

Trump first proposed a version of the rule in 2018, but it had been stalled for roughly two years before being revived in the waning days of the administration. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar released a letter on Friday citing his "extensive experience in this field" to argue there would not be an increase in premiums or government spending from the rule.

Democrats said Trump should have worked with them on more sweeping drug pricing legislation they passed a year ago.

The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, which represents pharmacy benefit managers that run the Medicare prescription drug plans targeted by the rebate rule, said it is exploring litigation.

The industry is considering "all options to stop this reckless attack on the companies working around the clock to beat COVID-19", the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America said in a statement.

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