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Trump Team Scrambling to Finish Drug Pricing Rule: Report

Yuval Rosenberg

Frustrated by polling data showing that voters trust Democrats more on the issue of health care, President Trump reportedly lashed out earlier this month at Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. That has led Azar to scramble to pull together details of a plan tying U.S. drug prices to a benchmark of prices in other developed countries, Politico’s Sarah Karlin-Smith and Adam Cancryn reported late Friday:

There had been internal disagreement among Azar and other key health officials like White House Domestic Policy Council Director Joe Grogan over whether to release the rule on international benchmarking, as Azar wanted, or keep it for leverage as Congress keeps working on drug pricing, as Grogan has argued. Trump’s insistence on an imminent win helped bring the dueling parties together around issuing the rule. … But the administration has little ability to speed up the pace of federal rulemaking. That means even under the most favorable circumstances, the administration won’t be able to demonstrate any real change to consumers for years.”

The pharmaceutical industry strongly opposes the idea of an international price index, as do many Republicans, who object to what they see as government price controls. Republicans have also been wary of backing bipartisan legislation from Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), which the White House supports.

Working on a plan to cut insulin costs for seniors: On a related note, Axios’s Caitlin Owens and Jonathan Swan report that the Trump administration is working on a plan to lower out-of-pocket costs for seniors who require insulin, though the details thus far “are unclear or undecided.”

Seniors spent an average of $588 out-of-pocket for insulin in 2016, or almost double what they paid in 2007, according to Axios. But Owens and Swan add that, “Lowering patients' out-of-pocket spending probably wouldn't lower the actual cost of the drug, meaning that it'd get shifted onto taxpayers.”

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