President Donald Trump, frustrated by lack of action by Congress to reduce the price of prescription drugs, announced on July 24th four executive orders intended to deliver Americans lower costs on prescription drugs.
Based on a news release by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and news reports on the executive orders, HHS is instructed to take the following actions:
- Create a pathway for safe personal importation through the use of individual waivers to purchase drugs from Canada and other countries at lower cost from pre-authorized U.S. wholesalers and pharmacies. The President said identical drugs are available in other countries at a cost much lower than in the U.S.
- Take action to ensure that the Medicare program and seniors pay no more for the most costly Medicare Part B drugs than any economically comparable country. The President claims this will end foreign countries’ freeloading off the backs of American taxpayers and pharmaceutical investments. This order takes effect in 30 days unless Congress acts or pharmaceutical companies offer alternative solutions.
- End a system of kickbacks by middlemen [Price Benefit Managers (PBMs)]. Seniors will directly receive these kickbacks as discounts in Medicare Part D. In 2018, these Part D discounts totaled more than $30 billion, representing an average discount of 26 to 30 percent.
- Require federally qualified health centers who purchase insulins and epinephrine in the 340B program to pass the savings from discounted drug prices directly on to medically underserved patients.
- Authorize the re-importation of insulin products made in the United States if the HHS Secretary finds re-importation is required for emergency medical care.
Our members should be proud to have supported the NRLN’s position on SAFE importation from Canada and then the world, as well as eliminating the PBM kickbacks. From the start of Medicare Part D, the NRLN has been the lead retiree advocate, writing to the President and lobbying Congress to support safe importation and that America’s retirees (paying 2-5 times higher) pay no more than the prices U.S. drug companies were charging seniors in other countries.
Bob Martina, NRLN’s VP Grassroots, said that many thousands of members from every state signed petitions, sent action alert messages and made personal contacts, unselfishly, that will benefit every retiree in America.
The NRLN continues to lobby for Congress to enact legislation to remove the prohibition on Medicare negotiating prescription drug prices and replace it with a competitive bidding mandate to be applied wherever two or more FDA approved generic drugs, or two or more brand drugs, or a generic and brand drugs (upon patent expiration) treat the same medical condition. Congress needs to strike down this no-compete clause!
Also, we are continuing to say that legislation should end pay-for-delay and other brand name drugmakers’ tactics that keep generic drugs off the market. Congress needs to enact specific statutes to end pay-for-delay.
The column by Alyson Parker, NRLN Executive Director, in the recently published summer NRLN FOCUS newsletter addressed the lack of action by Congress to pass legislation to reduce the cost of prescription drugs. She concluded: “Adding to the problem is it is an election year making each party very reticent to give the other a win to talk about back home. Control of the Senate is up for grabs at this point and neither party wants to give the other the advantage. Additionally, the Democrats know that if they regain control of the Senate, they won’t need to compromise on this issue. Sadly, the losers in this are the American people that buy prescriptions.”
Bill Kadereit, President
National Retiree Legislative Network