Trump Signs Executive Orders to Slash Prescription Drug Costs
Slashes price of medicine by up to 50%, says insulin gone from 'big dollars to pennies'
President Donald Trump has signed a number of executive orders to place limits on the cost of prescription drugs, slashing the price of many much-needed medicines.
On Friday, after being unable to land the big deal with Congress, President Trump moved on his own to allow imports of cheaper medicines and cut costs of American pharmaceuticals.
"Nothing like this has ever been done before because Big Pharma, with its vast power, would not let it happen," Trump said on Twitter Saturday.
"Expensive Insulin went from big dollars to virtual pennies."
"Epi-pens went from their incredibly high, jacked-up prices, to lower than their original give away bargains," he added.
"Biggest price reductions in history, by far!"
At a White House ceremony, Trump signed four executive orders.
One was about importation while the others would direct drugmaker rebates straight to patients, provide insulin and EpiPens at steep discounts to low-income people, and use lower international prices to pay for some Medicare drugs.
Trump cast his directives as far-reaching, but they mostly update earlier administration ideas that have not yet gone into effect.
"I'm unrigging the system that is many decades old," he declared during Friday's ceremony, promising "massive" savings for Americans.
...to virtual pennies. Epi-pens went from their incredibly high, jacked up prices, to lower than their original give away bargains. Biggest price reductions in history, by far! Nothing like this has ever for our citizens, especially our Seniors. REMEMBER YOUR FAVORITE PRESIDENT!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2020
Consumers may not notice immediate changes since the orders must be carried out by the federal bureaucracy and could face court challenges, according to reports.
Democrats, meanwhile, are eager to draw a contrast between Trump and their own sweeping plans to authorize their controversial Medicare plan, which they claim will negotiate lower prices with pharmaceutical companies.
A bill by Speaker Nancy Pelosi already passed the House and aligns with Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's approach.
Trump pulled his punches, Pelosi said in a statement.
"After promising that he would 'negotiate like crazy' for lower prescription drug prices, it is clear that President Trump meant not negotiate at all," she said, adding that if Trump is serious about lowering prices he should tell Senate Republicans to pass her bill.
A drive to enact major legislation this year stalled in Congress.
Although Trump told Republican senators that lowering prescription prices is "something you have to do," many remain reluctant to use federal authority to force drugmakers to charge less.
Americans have been worried about drug costs, with nearly 9 in 10 saying in a recent Gallup-West Health poll that they're concerned the pharmaceutical industry will take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to raise prices.
It's a particularly important issue for older people, who rely on medications to manage the medical problems associated with advancing age.
Drugmakers remain adamantly opposed to government efforts to curb prices, however.
Trump's administration "has decided to pursue a radical and dangerous policy to set prices based on rates paid in countries that he has labeled as socialist, which will harm patients today and into the future," Stephen Ubl, head of the pharmaceutical lobby, said in a statement.
Trump delayed the effective date of the international pricing order for a month, to see if he can get a deal with industry.
The four orders would:
- Allow states, wholesalers, and pharmacies to import FDA-approved drugs from foreign countries and sell them in the U.S. Trump has long complained that countries where the government sets the price of drugs are taking advantage of American consumers. The order includes a special provision to allow wholesalers and pharmacies to re-import insulin and biological drugs.
- Use the lowest price among other economically advanced countries to set what Medicare pays for certain drugs administered in a doctor's office, including many cancer medications. This would apply to the most expensive medications covered by Medicare's 'Part B,' which pays for outpatient care. Drugmakers are particularly leery of the approach since Democrats want to use it more broadly to allow Medicare to directly negotiate prices.
- Direct federally funded community health centers to pass discounts they now get for insulin and EpiPens directly to low-income patients.
- Ensure that rebates drugmakers now pay to benefit managers and insurers get passed directly to patients when they buy a medication. The White House last year withdrew an earlier version of the proposal after the Congressional Budget Office estimated it would cost taxpayers $177 billion over 10 years.