President Trump on Friday announced two major actions aimed at lowering the price of prescription drugs, as he seeks to make a mark on the issue in the final months of his administration.
Officials are skipping some steps in the regulatory process for the most-favored nation rule in a bid to speed it out the door, increasing the likelihood that a court will strike it down. It is adamantly opposed by critics aligned with the pharmaceutical industry, who liken it to socialism.
The other rule would limit rebates paid to middlemen in Medicare. The Trump administration disputes that and says its rule could potentially result in 30% savings for patients.
PhRMA, a trade group for pharmaceutical companies, called the rules "a reckless attack on the companies working around the clock to end this pandemic" and said it was looking at options to block them. As president, he dropped that idea, objected to by most Republicans. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., did not get a full Senate vote. 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.
Wall Street analysts said there was little chance the new rules would be put into place, in part because they expect legal challenges by pharmaceutical and pharmacy benefit manager trade organizations. Ironically, the legal authority for Trump's action comes from the Affordable Care Act, the Obama-era health care overhaul he's still trying to repeal.
"If the president were serious, he should have worked with Congress to enact our bipartisan legislation to empower the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices for all Americans", Pallone and Neal said.
After unveiling the two rules on drug prices, Trump mention the election and again declared himself as the victor, complaining that his campaign had media, big tech and particularly big pharma "against us", and contradicting projections by U.S. mainstream media awarding Democrat Joe Biden the election win. But Democrats would go much further, authorizing Medicare to use lower prices from overseas to wrest industry concessions for all expensive medications, not just those administered in clinical settings. It also would allow private insurance plans for workers and their families get Medicare's lower prices. Also, Medicare drug plans that cap insulin costs at $35 a month are available during open enrollment, now underway. Prices have continued to rise, though the pace has slowed under his presidency.
Delivering the remarks, POTUS also said that Unapproved Drug Initiative (UDI), which required manufacturers to remove drugs that were not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from the market, will be cancelled.