Andrew Harnik / AP
President Trump signed an ordinance on Sunday saying he will cut prescription drug prices “by putting America first,” but experts say the move is unlikely to have an immediate impact.
The move comes almost two months after the president signed another executive ordinance with the exact same name but withheld it to see if he could negotiate a better deal with pharmaceutical companies. “If these talks are successful, we may not have to implement the fourth executive order, which is a very difficult order for them,” Trump said at the time.
The new executive order repeals the original and adds Medicare Part B and Medicare Part D to Trump’s proposed “Most Favored” drug pricing scheme. The idea is that Medicare would refuse to pay more for drugs than the lower prices paid by other industrial nations.
“It is unacceptable for Americans to pay more for the exact same drugs, often made in the exact same places,” the executive order explains.
The new ordinance, like the previous one, signed but not published on July 24th, drew swift condemnation from the pharmaceutical industry. Trump revels in the pushback during the campaign speeches, saying if drug companies criticize him, he has to do something right.
“The focus of all reforms must be on lowering costs for patients, ensuring patient access to medicines, removing misaligned incentives in the pharmaceutical supply chain and protecting the critical work done to end COVID-19,” Stephen said Ubl, President and CEO of the pharmaceutical industry lobby group PhRMA, in a statement. “Unfortunately, instead of pursuing these reforms, the White House has doubled down on a ruthless attack on the very companies that are working 24/7 to beat COVID-19.”
Ubl described the order as “an irresponsible and impractical policy that gives foreign governments a say in providing access to treatments and remedies for the elderly and those with devastating diseases”.
The regulation calls on the Secretary for Health and Human Services “to take prompt and appropriate steps to implement his plan to establish rules for testing a payment model” and implement the “most favored nation” policy. Translated: As with most executive action, this only starts with a lengthy bureaucratic process that may or may not ultimately lead to the promised policy.
HHS spokespeople didn’t immediately respond to questions emailed about how quickly this could take effect and what testing a payment model looks like in practice.
“The President may be frustrated that he has not reached an agreement with the drug manufacturers as his announced action is just a demonstration and it is very difficult to see what effect this could have in the near future,” said Ian Spatz of a health policy Consultant and former managing director of a pharmaceutical company.
For a president who prides himself on his dealmaking skills, the month and a half since he first signed a drug pricing ordinance ends without a deal.
White House spokesman Judd Deere said the president had “given drug companies a month to come up with a counter-proposal,” but “negotiations have not produced an acceptable alternative, so the president goes ahead.” It is unclear how violent or serious these negotiations were as neither side released much information about the talks.
One thing is for sure, Trump will announce this order on the campaign, just like he did last time. Seniors are an important part of the coalition that Trump put in office in 2016, but polls show he isn’t doing that well with them this time around.