Trump signs order to lower US drug prices after earlier threat

President Donald Trump displays an executive order on lowering drug prices during a ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Friday, July 24, 2020. (Stefani Reynolds/Pool/Abaca Press/TNS)
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By Riley Griffin and Josh Wingrove Bloomberg News (TNS)

President Donald Trump pressed ahead to start the process of cutting drug prices by tying them to lower prices paid by countries with national health systems, after a summertime threat failed to yield a new deal with pharmaceutical companies.

Trump, during a trip to Nevada, tweeted Sunday that he had just signed an order on the “most favored nation” plan, which would try to link Medicare Part B and Part D prices to lower prices paid by other countries. But the order, released later by the White House, is just a first step that instructs the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to begin the rule-making process to test “a payment model” for some medicines. It offered few details.

“Americans should not bear extra burdens to compensate for the shortfalls that result from the nationalized public healthcare systems of wealthy countries abroad,” the order states.

In late July, Trump announced plans for multiple executive orders, including one that would allow Americans to buy medication imported from Canada. The president announced the “favored nations order” at the same conference in an attempt to pressure drug companies to the table to strike a deal.

The White House finally released that July 24 order on Sunday, but also announced that it had been rescinded. The new order issued Sunday echoes the earlier order’s provision on Part B druPlan’s Opponentsgs but adds a section on Part D drugs.

The drug industry’s largest trade organizations, PhRMA and the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, didn’t immediately return requests for comment.

Plan’s opponents

The planned order immediately drew ire from the drug industry when it was broached in July. Pharmaceutical groups ran advertisements against the measure, as Trump began touting the as-of-yet-unspecified policy at campaign rallies. Lobbyist Stephen Ubl, the CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, called the pricing policy at the time “radical and dangerous.”

Democrats, too, aired their concerns. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the moves took “no real action” to lower prices.

Trump said at the time that he would give the industry 30 days to aid him in finding an alternative solution to cut drug costs, and was open to meet with those in the sector to find a compromise. Now, however, the Trump administration has moved forward with the order.

Trump has sought to improve his standing on health-care issues, particularly with older voters, as negative sentiment over his handling of the coronavirus has mounted.

Research from the data firm 0ptimus found has found the pandemic has activated a new group of “Coronavoters” who pose a threat to his presidency: Republicans for whom the virus was the last straw, and “low-propensity” Democratic and independent voters who will mobilize to the polls come November.

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