Business & Tech

Trump officials said to ready drug pricing executive order

Mylan NV caused a furor after raising the price of its lifesaving EpiPen 400 percent to $600 for two shots of the allergy-fighting medicine.

Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press/File 2016

Mylan NV caused a furor after raising the price of its lifesaving EpiPen 400 percent to $600 for two shots of the allergy-fighting medicine.

President Trump’s administration is preparing an executive order aimed at lowering US drug costs, according to people familiar with the matter, a move that could come within weeks on a campaign issue that has been largely left out of Republican legislative efforts in Congress.

Health and budget officials will meet Friday to discuss the issue, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the session is private. Trump sought recommendations from health agencies on reducing medication costs, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price told senators last week.

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One policy being discussed for inclusion in the order is expressing support for value-based agreements, a drug industry-backed proposal in which pharmaceutical companies and health insurers develop arrangements to pay for products depending on how well they work, one of the people said.

Trump has excoriated drug makers for “getting away with murder” following high-profile instances of companies raising costs on decades-old treatments that attracted congressional attention. In one now-infamous case, Turing Pharmaceuticals AG, then led by Martin Shkreli, bought the rights to sell a decades-old anti-infective drug called Daraprim and raised the price to $750 a pill from $13.50. Mylan NV also caused a furor after raising the price of its lifesaving EpiPen 400 percent to $600 for two shots of the allergy-fighting medicine.

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Price, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator Seema Verma, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin are expected to attend the meeting Friday, which is being led by Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney, according to the people.

A White House spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The meeting was first reported by Politico.

The recommendations from the officials may be used to craft a first executive order on drug prices that could come out soon, according to the people, followed by a second, more extensive order later. While executive orders can’t change laws, Trump could use the efforts to direct agencies to explore regulatory changes.

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“I’m very interested in the executive order,” Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said in a statement Thursday.

He would like the administration to consider ensuring drugs are classified correctly under the Medicaid health program for the poor. The proposal would get at a tactic used by some drug makers that allowed Mylan to overcharge US taxpayers by as much as $1.27 billion over the last decade by classifying the EpiPen as a generic drug rather than a brand-name treatment. Generic drugs provide lower discounts than their brand-name counterparts for Medicaid.

The president has threatened on several occasions to force drug makers to bid for government business as a way to reduce prices. He’s also talked about letting consumers import drugs from other countries with lower prices. Neither of those policies, which would likely require a change in law to be implemented in a meaningful way, are in drafts of the orders, according to one person familiar with the effort.

The FDA has already outlined some policies to target drug pricing. Gottlieb has said the agency may push new generic-drug applications to the front of the line in cases where there are fewer than three competing generic manufacturers, which could raise competition and lower costs for some treatments.

Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican who chairs a key health committee, plans to continue to look at the issue legislatively as well. His committee held a hearing Tuesday on options to bring down drug pricing and plans to hold two more.

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