Drug Prices Continue to Get Attention In Washington

The White House is expected to issue an executive order in the coming weeks to help reduce the cost of prescription pharmaceuticals.

In a meeting on June 16, key Trump Administration health and budgetary officials met with the President to discuss the new policy. Reports are that the new executive order will focus on value-based purchasing contracts, which require drug manufacturers and insurers to negotiate payments for drugs based on how well they work. It is expected that policies that the President earlier supported will not be endorsed, such as importation of lower priced drugs from overseas and government price negotiations for drugs covered under Medicare Part D.

In addition, last Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions held a hearing entitled, “The Cost of Prescription Drugs: How the Drug Delivery System Affects What Patients Pay.” Committee members focused on some very basic elements of the drug pricing and delivery system, indicating that lawmakers have a great deal still to learn in understanding the myriad issues involved on this topic.

The hearing took a notable turn when Committee Democrats used the forum as an opportunity to raise their concerns with the way Senate Republicans are drafting health reform legislation to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said it was “insane” to attempt to have a bipartisan hearing on drug prices while the GOP was drafting a bill that she said would “take away prescription drug benefits.”

Despite those protests, Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) announced that two more hearings on drug pricing issues are planned for later this year.