President Trump announced historic reforms that will finalize his plans to lower prescription drug prices today in a press conference. He was joined with remarks by United States Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, and administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Seema Verma.
With the America Healthcare First Healthcare Plan, Trump has sought to put American patients first, delivering tangible results in a number of areas related to our healthcare system. Price transparency, regulatory policies, increasing the number of plans for people in need of insulin, making healthcare more accessible and addressing the lack of competitive pricing with regard to Part D Medicare prescription prices are among the significant reforms seen during the Trump administration.
There have been a number of executive orders issued by President Trump regarding healthcare and prescription drug pricing—all seeking to increase competition in the healthcare industry, placing American patients as the top priority. Executive Order 13951, issued on Sept. 24, 2020, documents the totality of the Trump Administration healthcare plan and executive orders to date.
Today President Trump emphasized two in a series of executive orders that he issued in July, describing the arduous statutory process involved, culminating in today's announcement. While he mentioned EO 13937, which laid a foundation to address insulin prices, which has seen dramatic reductions in cost to patients, his emphasis was focused on executive orders 13938 and 13939. Both are finalized with today's announcement.
EO 13938, initiated a ruling to complete "rule-making to authorize the safe importation of certain lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada." He said that "in case after case, our citizens pay massively higher prices than other nations pay for the same exact pill, from the same factory . . .."
The third, EO 13939, began the process of eliminating "wasteful payments to middlemen by passing drug discounts through to patients," saving the elderly between "30-50 percent of the cost" for their prescription drugs, finalizing the application of "most favored nation rule (MFN)," to drug prices. Most favored nation is a principle that seeks "to replace the frictions and distortions of power-based (bilateral) policies with the guarantees of a rules-based framework where trading rights do not depend on the individual participants’ economic or political clout." The Trump administration hopes to give governors the right to go to Canada to buy drugs by Jan.1, 2021 .
President Trump mentioned the pressure that big pharma and their lobbyists place on politicians to keep drug prices elevated. "It took a long time before we were able to do this," he continued, "because statutorily we had to go through a process . . . I just hope they keep it, I hope they have the courage to keep it."
Secretary Azar thanked the President for the "extremely exciting day for American healthcare," stating that the mission to lower prescription drug prices began in 2018. It was then they conceived that the principle of most favored nation should also apply to the price of medication—a novel concept in its application. He also announced the important "emergency use authorization" filed today by Pfizer with the FDA for their Covid-19 vaccine "that appears to be 95 percent effective. Within weeks," he continued, "we could have a decision from FDA and within 24 hours of that, we will have started distributing millions of doses of safe and effective vaccine to protect our most vulnerable across America."
Azar complimented the President for his "passion" for lowering drug prices. Azar stated that when he became Secretary in January of 2018, "the very first meeting we had in the oval office was to put together our plan for tackling drug prices." It was his "number one priority. From the beginning," he added, "the blueprint was clear. We needed to put American patients first."
Seema Verma concluded the conference, reinforcing the priority the President has placed on lowering drug prices. She highlighted the fact that he "wasn't afraid to take on the special interest groups, tackling long-standing problems" with healthcare costs that "no other administration had the guts to do." She added that he did all of this "in the absence of any meaningful legislative support."