Trump officials making changes to signature drug pricing proposal, Azar says

Trump officials making changes to signature drug pricing proposal, Azar says
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Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar on Wednesday said that the administration is changing one of its main proposals to lower drug prices because President TrumpDonald John TrumpLawmakers prep ahead of impeachment hearing Democrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing Warren says she made almost M from legal work over past three decades MORE wants to go further. 

The Trump administration last year proposed lowering certain Medicare drug prices by tying the prices to lower prices paid in other developed countries, an idea known as the International Pricing Index. 

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Under the original proposal, prices would still have been lower than they are now, but would still be a certain percentage higher than they are in other countries. Trump was not satisfied with that idea, Azar said Wednesday, and wanted the proposal changed so that prices in the United States are even lower than they are in other countries. 

“What we suggested was reducing that 180 percent premium [above other countries] by 30 percent,” Azar said at an event hosted by Axios. “The president did not find that satisfactory. His view, which he has articulated publicly, is that America ought to be getting the best deal among developed countries. That was the terminology of ‘most favored nation status.’ And so that's the type of proposal we're working on.”

Trump had sparked some confusion in July when he said he was working on an executive order on “most favored nation” status for drug prices. Azar’s comments Wednesday help explain what Trump meant. 

It is still unclear if the proposal will ever go into effect, though. Azar did not commit to finalizing the proposal on Wednesday. “I can’t prejudge the president’s decision-making,” he said. Azar did indicate the proposal would not actually be an “executive order,” as Trump said, but would instead be a formally proposed regulation from the Department of Health and Human Services. 

Some experts think the administration is waiting to move forward on the proposal until they see whether Congress can take action on drug prices. 

Congressional Republicans have also pushed back on the administration’s proposal, saying it breaks from GOP orthodoxy by linking U.S. prices to those in other countries where there are price controls. 

Democrats, while offering some praise for the administration’s proposal, have also said it does not go far enough. The move would only lower prices for physician-administered drugs for people on Medicare, meaning people with private insurance and people getting drugs at the pharmacy counter would not see relief.