The Trump administration issued regulations on Friday that could lower the prices Americans pay for many prescription drugs.
“The drug companies don’t like me too much. But we had to do it,” President Donald Trump said in announcing the new policy at the White House.
“I just hope they keep it. I hope they have the courage to keep it,” he added, noting pressure from drug company lobbyists.
It’s hard to say whether the rules will withstand expected legal challenges from the pharmaceutical industry or whether a Biden administration would accept, amend or try to roll them back entirely.
One of the finalized rules would tie what Medicare pays for medications administered in a doctor’s office to the lowest price paid among a group of other economically advanced countries. That’s called the “most favored nations” approach.
The administration estimates it could save $28 billion over seven years for Medicare recipients through lower copays. It would take effect Jan. 1.
Another rule would require drugmakers for brand name pharmacy medications to give Medicare enrollees rebates that now go to insurers and middlemen called pharmacy benefit managers.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates it would increase taxpayer costs by $177 billion over 10 years.
The Trump administration disputes that and says its rule could potentially result in 30 percent savings for patients. It would take effect Jan. 1, 2022.
The pharmaceutical industry is considering “all options to stop this reckless attack on the companies working around the clock to beat COVID-19,” the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America said in a statement.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, a former drug company executive, said the rules will “break this model where patients suffer, where prices increase every year,” while corporate insiders enrich themselves.
Addressing the prospect of legal battles, Azar said “we feel that both regulations are extremely strong and any industry challenging them is declaring themselves at odds with American patients and President Trump’s commitment to lowering out-of-pocket costs.”
The international pricing rule would cover many cancer drugs and other medications delivered by infusion or injection in a doctor’s office.
It would apply to 50 medications that account for the highest spending under Medicare’s “Part B” benefit for outpatient care.
The rule also changes how hospitals and doctors are paid for administering the drugs, in an effort to try to remove incentives for using higher cost medications.
Relying on international prices to lower U.S. costs is an approach also favored by Democrats, including Joe Biden.
Trump has taken other action to lower prescription drug costs by opening a legal path for importing medicines from abroad.
Also, Medicare drug plans that cap insulin costs at $35 a month are available during open enrollment, currently underway.
Prices for brand name drugs have continued to rise during Trump’s tenure, but at a slower rate.
The Food and Drug Administration has put a priority on approving generic drugs, which cost less.
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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