Future for action on drug pricing uncertain

Drug prices
While several regulations are likely on drug prices, impeachment talk has dominated action on Capitol Hill. (Getty/Tero Vesalainen)

This is another area that has bipartisan support in Congress but is filled with question marks for the rest of 2019.

In Congress, several proposals to reform Medicare Part D or give Medicare power to negotiate lower drug prices have been considered. But the impeachment inquiry launched by House Democrats against President Trump has dominated lawmakers' attention.

The battle over impeachment “muddies the water in terms of what might happen through the remainder of the year,” said Elizabeth Carpenter, head of advisory services at consulting firm Avalere.

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On the regulatory end, another major question mark is if the Trump administration will release a regulation to tie prices for certain Medicare Part B drugs to prices paid by foreign countries. The administration released a notice of advance rulemaking last year on the proposal, and officials had said they wanted to release a proposed rule by spring 2019, but so far nothing has happened.

However, some actions could still be taken on drug prices before 2020. President Trump himself gave a major hint during a speech on Medicare Advantage earlier this month.

Trump said that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is “going to have some big surprises. We’ll be announcing that pretty soon.”

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Carpenter said that Trump is likely hinting that Florida will come out with a proposal to import cheaper drugs from Canada.

The Department of Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration released a proposal on drug importation back in July. The agency would create a demonstration project in which a state, wholesaler or pharmacist can import drugs from Canada at a cheaper price than in the U.S.

Florida is one of several states that have passed laws to explore importation. DeSantis, a staunch Trump ally, has been a major proponent of importation.

Future for action on drug pricing uncertain