Trump health official: Controversial drug pricing move is 'top priority'

Trump health official: Controversial drug pricing move is 'top priority'
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A top Trump administration health official on Thursday indicated that the administration is pushing forward with a controversial proposal to lower drug prices, despite opposition from some fellow Republicans. 

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma told reporters that the proposal to lower certain drug prices in Medicare by tying them to lower prices in other countries, known as the International Price Index, is a “top priority.”

The proposal has drawn fierce opposition from the pharmaceutical industry, a powerful force in Washington, as well as from many congressional Republicans, who warn that the move amounts to “price controls” and is a departure from free-market GOP orthodoxy. 

For example, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyBottom line Graham: FBI investigation in 2016 turned into a 'criminal conspiracy' House GOP unveils alternative drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote MORE (R-Iowa) announced his opposition to the idea in June. 

But President TrumpDonald John TrumpLawmakers release defense bill with parental leave-for-Space-Force deal House Democrats expected to unveil articles of impeachment Tuesday Houston police chief excoriates McConnell, Cornyn and Cruz on gun violence MORE has long railed against high drug prices. He unveiled the proposal last October, but there are still several more steps before it actually goes into effect, and there has been speculation that it might never go forward given the opposition. 

But Verma indicated that the administration is still planning to move forward. 

“We are fast and furious on it,” she said. “I can tell you I just had a meeting on it this morning.”

She declined to give a timeline for when the proposal would move forward. 

There has also been some confusion given that Trump has also said he is considering an executive order aimed at lowering drug prices to be more in line with other countries’ prices. 

Verma declined to say whether the executive order Trump referenced is the same thing as the International Price Index or whether Trump was referring to an additional action that he might take. 

The International Pricing Index proposal is a sign that Trump has been willing to break from his party on drug prices, but there are many questions that remain, including when, and even whether, it will actually go forward.