Key Trump proposal to lower drug prices takes step forward

Key Trump proposal to lower drug prices takes step forward
© Greg Nash

One of President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch To ward off recession, Trump should keep his mouth and smartphone shut Trump: 'Who is our bigger enemy,' Fed chief or Chinese leader? MORE’s major proposals to lower drug prices took a step forward on Friday.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) sent to the White House for review a proposal to lower certain drug prices in Medicare by linking them to the lower prices paid in other countries, an idea called the international pricing index.

Trump unveiled the original proposal in October, but it was in the early stages then, with several more steps in the regulatory process.

There has been some speculation that the administration would never actually finalize the rule, and was simply using it as a bargaining chip to push for other drug pricing changes.

But the move to send the proposal to the White House for review, along with supportive comments from HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Friday, indicate the idea is at least moving forward.

Azar said on Fox Business on Friday that the proposal was sent to the White House that morning and said it would help close the gap between what the United States pays for drugs and what other countries do.

“We're going to end that foreign free-riding, we're going to stop having America's seniors propping up the socialist systems abroad at their expense, and we're continuing to act,” Azar said.

It is unclear how long the process of White House review will take, and whether the White House will seek to make significant changes to the proposal.

The idea, which is a sharp departure from traditional free-market GOP thinking on drug prices, has drawn opposition from some congressional Republicans.

In fact, HHS sent the proposal to the White House for review just days after Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyThe road not taken: Another FBI failure involving the Clintons surfaces White House denies exploring payroll tax cut to offset worsening economy Schumer joins Pelosi in opposition to post-Brexit trade deal that risks Northern Ireland accord MORE (R-Iowa) this week announced that he opposed the idea.

“I don't think that this administration's approach on international pricing is going to be to the benefit of the adoption of and research for modern drugs,” Grassley, who is working on his own drug pricing proposal, told reporters.

The pharmaceutical industry, a powerful force in Washington, is also fiercely opposed to the idea.