Unable to come to an agreement with Congress on how to curb rising prescription drug prices, President Donald Trump announced four executive orders last week that he said would lower prescription drug prices to American consumers.
- Direct federally qualified health centers to pass along discounts on insulin and epinephrine received from drug companies to certain low-income Americans.
- Allow, for individual state plans, the safe importation of certain drugs, authorize the re-importation of insulin products made in the United States, and create a pathway for widespread use of personal importation waivers at authorized pharmacies throughout the U.S.
- Prohibit secret deals between drug manufacturers and pharmacy benefit manager middlemen, ensuring patients directly benefit from available discounts at the pharmacy counter.
- Aim to ensure that the U.S. will pay the lowest price available in economically comparable countries for all Medicare Part B drugs. However, this order won’t go into effect until Aug. 24, to give Trump time to get input from the pharmaceutical industry on how they think the 80 percent more the U.S. pays for Part B drugs than other countries can be reduced.
“Today’s executive orders will deliver billions of dollars in discounts directly to patients at the pharmacy counter, safe low-cost imported drugs for Americans, the best deals for America on highly expensive drugs, and direct discounts passed on to patients on important drugs from community health centers," said Alex Azar, secretary of Health and Human Services.
However, Peter Maybarduk, director, Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines Program, said despite Trump’s bombastic bluster for more than three-and-a-half years, he’s failed to make any meaningful difference in the lives of people suffering as a result of prescription drug corporation price gouging.
Maybarduk said there’s little chance any of these measures will be carried out this year.
“While some of these proposals could help a limited number of people access insulin or EpiPens, they are pathetically small compared to the massive executive power Trump could use to make medicine affordable and available for all, if he were willing to stand up to Big Pharma,” he said.
Instead of squandering his time in office, Trump should have used the bully pulpit to champion congressional proposals that would enable the U.S. government to “negotiate like crazy,” he said. And, Trump could use existing authorities to take away monopoly control from pharma price gougers to obtain lower prices for consumers.
Maybarduk said a White House meeting with pharmaceutical executives was canceled after two drug maker lobby groups – the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and Biotechnology Innovation Organization – refused to send their members, according to news reports. It was scheduled to follow Trump’s four executive orders.
“Half-measures won’t bring Big Pharma to the table,” he said.
Trump made the mistake of thinking that small reforms to make small changes in some drug prices for some people would seem reasonable to an industry that’s addicted to monopoly profits, Maybarduk said.
However, he said, there’s no change so small that Big Pharma will accept.
“The better approach is to make good policy by ending drug monopolies, imposing reasonable pricing conditions and forcing prescription drug corporations to comply,” Maybarduk said.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called Trump’s executive orders “empty.“
“After promising that he would ‘negotiate like crazy’ for lower prescription drug prices, it is clear that President Trump meant not negotiate at all,” Pelosi said.
Democrats have acted to advance real drug price negotiation with the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, she said.
“If President Trump was serious about stopping drug companies from charging Americans more than they charge for the same medicines overseas, he would tell Leader McConnell to pass the Lower Drug Costs Now Act immediately,” Pelosi said. “Sadly, Big Pharma calls the shots in the Trump White House.”