Wednesday, 23 October, 2019

WSJ Lauds Administration for Pulling Back Drug Rebate Rule

President Trump									Win McNamee  Getty Images President Trump Win McNamee Getty Images
Samantha Long | 13 July, 2019, 09:47

Healthcare providers sector-related exchange traded fund was among the best performers on Thursday, breaking above its long-term resistance, after the Trump administration withdrew plans to curb billions of dollars in annual rebates that drugmakers provided middlemen in Medicare.

It was not immediately clear whether that meant the end of the debate on rebates because other proposals on the same issue could surface on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are working with the administration on drug cost legislation.

The proposed rule sought to ban rebates - the discounts drugmakers pay to pharmacy benefit managers - in Medicare and Medicaid, unless they are passed directly to the consumer at the pharmacy counter. Under Trump's plan, consumers would receive the money that would have otherwise gone to drug manufacturers.

It also demonstrates the internal conflicts within the administration on drug policy and the president's tendency to flip-flop - the plan was part of his drug pricing blueprint released with fanfare a year ago.

"This proposal has the potential to be the most significant change in how Americans' drugs are priced at the pharmacy counter, ever", Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in January when the proposal was released.

The White house did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment.

The pushback grew after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the plan would have little impact on manufacturer prices and would cost taxpayers $177 billion over 10 years. The CBO also said it was likely drugmakers would not cut their prices because of the rule.

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"Based on careful analysis and thorough consideration, the President has chose to withdraw the rebate rule", said a White House spokesman.

A senior Trump administration official, who spoke on background during a separate briefing Thursday, echoed those sentiments, saying their primary focus is to support a legislative deal to lower drug prices and that there was concern this change would disrupt those efforts.

The government had hoped that by eliminating rebates of 15 percent to 30 percent, or more, of a drug's listed price, the prices would fall. The pharmaceutical industry and many conservative groups have vocally opposed that proposal, known as the worldwide price index, often on the grounds that it would implement "socialist" price controls. Some congressional Republicans and key consumer advocacy groups anxious it would raise Medicare premiums. The government's inflation index for medications also includes prices for lower-cost generics, and most consumers are anxious about high-priced brand drugs.

The Trump administration is considering a proposed rule that aims to bring some USA drug prices in the Medicare program in line with lower prices paid by other countries. So as far as drug price rebates go, there will be no change because of this White House reversal.

"There are still many headwinds for the supply chain, but. pharma and biotech seem to have drawn the ire of the administration more recently", said Coldwell, noting the industry's successful legal challenge of a rule that would have required drugmakers to include list prices in TV ads for their medicines.

But without insurers getting the rebates, the bottom line would have been an increase in premiums.

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