Trump likely to sign executive orders on drug pricing Friday

President Trump is likely to sign executive orders on Friday aimed at lowering drug prices, elevating a key issue for voters in an election year. 

While the plans could shift at the last minute, some GOP lawmakers have been invited to a presidential event on drug pricing Friday at 3 p.m. at the White House in the South Court Auditorium to make the announcement, according to an invitation obtained by The Hill. 

The exact details of the orders remain unclear, but sources say one order is likely to include a version of a proposal to reduce some U.S. drug prices by tying them to the lower prices paid in other countries. 

An idea that had been in the mix earlier in the week, to eliminate the rebates drugmakers pay to negotiators known as pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), is now unlikely to be included, sources say. 

The moves on drug prices come as the election nears and Democrats have been hammering Republicans on the issue of health care, particularly a Trump-backed lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act.  

However, it remains unclear when any of the actions can actually take effect. The power to implement drug pricing policy through executive order is limited, meaning it will likely take time for the formal regulatory process to play out after Trump signs the orders. 

Asked about the plans, White House spokesman Judd Deere declined to discuss specifics but said: “The President continues to explore any and all options that will deliver lower cost drugs, while ensuring we have access to the most innovative vaccines and therapeutics in the world.” 

Other policies in the mix include encouraging the domestic manufacturing of drugs in the United States, and policies related to the drug discount program for hospitals known as 340B.

But it is the order tying prices to those in other countries that is the most controversial. Trump proposed a version of that idea in 2018, called the International Price Index, shortly before the midterm elections, but it has stalled since then. 

Many congressional Republicans oppose the idea, calling it a price control that violates free-market principles. 

The pharmaceutical industry also strongly opposes the idea, and has been rallying this week to try to stop it, in part by contacting their congressional allies, who have been contacting the White House. 

The exact details of the latest version of the idea are not clear, and it is now sometimes referred to as “most favored nation,” meaning the U.S. will get the best price of any developed country for a drug. But it is unclear how that would be put into practice, and if the new system can go through the regulatory process and be implemented before the election.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump Drug prices

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