President Donald Trump signed a series of executive orders last week to lower prescription drug prices, focusing on allowing discounts and importing cheaper drugs from abroad. The U.S. is known for its exorbitant drug prices. In 2015, the U.S paid $1,162 per person versus the UK’s $497 per person for prescription drugs.
What the orders would do
The orders that Trump signed on Friday would do the following:
- Allow states to import cheaper drugs from Canada
- Ensure that drug rebates for pharmacy benefit managers and insurers get passed directly to patients
- Reduce the cost of insulin and EpiPens using the 340B program for federally funded community health centers
- Make what Medicare Part B pays for drugs the same as what other countries pay (international drug pricing rule)
A group of top pharmaceutical company executives will meet on Tuesday at the White House to discuss the issue of matching prices to international benchmarks. This change, if implemented, could save Medicare $17 billion in the first five years.
The importation of drugs from Canada might not be viable, according to Bloomberg news, since Canadian supply would not live up to the U.S. demand.
Will the orders be implemented?
Trump can’t really act on implementing the orders, but can direct the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to take action. Some of the orders could face challenges in the courts and be difficult to enact.
Some detractors say that Trump is just issuing these orders now in order to gain voters in November. Polls show that his support is weakening based on Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and his attempts to do away with the Affordable Care Act.