Trump vs. PhRMA: The Big Drug Deadline Debate

The topic of drug prices continues to cause stir, as President Trump ignored a deadline given by himself for moving forward with an executive order to lower the price of prescription drugs. Fiercely opposed, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) has called the President’s actions “irresponsible.”

What is the most-favored-nation clause

“I did a favored nations clause, meaning we pay the same price as the lowest country that has the best deal, the companies are going crazy, the drug companies,” Trump said in remarks to the Republican National Convention (RNC) on Monday, August 24.

Trump’s decision to order a“most-favored nation clause (MFN),” which is aimed at lowering the prices for a subset of drugs paid for by Medicare to equate to the lower prices paid in other developed countries, is what PhRMA has issues with.

Trump’s exact words about delaying the deadline were, “We’re going to hold that until Aug. 24, hoping that the pharmaceutical companies will come up with something that will substantially reduce drug prices,” Trump said at the signing ceremony in July. “And the clock starts right now. So, it’s Aug. 24 at 12 [a.m.], after which the order on favored nations will go into effect.” And yet, the White House has made no action. 

PhRMA fly off the handle

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) has been in continuous conversations with the White House in recent days and has submitted an alternative proposal to the White House, some executive sources have said. Despite Trump’s once stated openness to a deal to avert the order, it remains unclear if any deal will be reached.

PhRMA did not say what proposals it is putting forward instead, but said it supports “market-based, competitive solutions.”

“The most favored nation executive order is an irresponsible and unworkable policy that will give foreign politicians a say in how America provides access to treatments and cures for seniors and people struggling with devastating diseases,” a PhRMA spokesperson said.

“We remain committed to working with all stakeholders to identify market-based, competitive solutions that lower costs for patients, ensure patients’ access to medicines and protect the critical work being done to end COVID-19,” they added. 

Continued critique 

Drug pricing advocates are urging Trump to go forward now that his deadline has passed.

“Abandoning the most-favored nation proposal at the 11th hour would be a capitulation to drug corporations,” said Ben Wakana, the executive director of Patients For Affordable Drugs Now. 

“If President Trump does not implement a proposal to lower the list prices of prescription drugs, he will leave Americans continuing to pay the highest prices in the world,” added Wakana.

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