Drug pricing order would cut regulations

Greg Nash

The Trump administration may try to cut regulations in order to speed up drug approvals or lower the price of expensive prescription drugs, according to a draft executive order obtained by The Hill.

The order has yet to be released, but experts said the policies in the draft are considered to be friendly toward the pharmaceutical industry. The order could be an interim step toward more comprehensive reforms later.

The order promotes free market reforms that were absent from Trump’s campaign pledges. During his presidential campaign, Trump railed against the pharmaceutical industry and its prices, saying they are “getting away with murder.” 

The White House would not comment on the draft order, but lobbyists and attorneys familiar with the order confirmed it was the most current version under consideration. They expect the order to be released as early as next week.  

Even though the order is still in draft form, House and Senate Democrats have been slamming how much it appears to favor the drug industry. Two House Democrats this week called the order a “betrayal” of Trump’s promises on drug prices.

{mosads}In addition, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and a wide group of House and Senate Democrats on Friday sent a letter to Trump urging him to “stand up to the pharmaceutical corporations.”

“At a time when profits of prescription drug corporations are at an all-time high and patients are skipping doses because of unaffordable drug prices, pursuing such an executive order is an abdication or your responsibilities to the American people,” the Democrats wrote.

The order isn’t a complete industry wish list. Some policy items listed in the three-page executive order could address certain anti-competitive behaviors by bringing more generic drugs into the market, which could help bring down the prices of some brand-name drugs.

The order would also instruct the Food and Drug Administration to “address unintended consequences of existing rules that may reduce competition.”

Executive orders can’t change or make laws, but they can be used to direct agencies to pursue certain regulatory actions.

One such policy would direct federal agencies to pursue value-based purchasing contracts for drugs. Value-based contracts require manufacturers and insurers to work together on payment for a drug based on how it performs.

Another policy that is in the draft order would instruct agencies to pursue trade policies that would strengthen the intellectual property rights of pharmaceutical companies. The industry has argued that weaker patent protections lead to higher prices because Americans are essentially subsidizing research and development.

Michael Strazzella, an attorney at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, said the most noticeable absence in the draft order is any effort to increase price transparency. It’s a policy Trump campaigned on, and something advocates had hoped would be addressed.

“I think Congress can still go further [than the administration] if they want to,” Strazzella said. “It’s important that [Trump] took this step, but there will be questions about how far he went and … whether he’ll be going after people he somewhat demonized during the campaign.”

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