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President Joe Biden’s United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Thursday stopped executive orders from his predecessor designed to significantly lower prescription drug prices for Americans, including insulin and epinephrine.
The new administration will apparently re-evaluate the executive action from President Donald Trump toward the end of March. It remains unclear if it will be reinstated.
“The HHS Thursday froze the former Trump administration’s December drug policy that requires community health centers to pass on all their insulin and epinephrine discount savings to patients,” Bloomberg Law reported Thursday. “Centers that don’t pass on the savings wouldn’t qualify for federal grants.”
“This freeze is part of the Biden administration’s large-scale effort announced this week that will scrutinize the Trump administration’s health policies,” the report noted. “If the previous administration’s policies raise ‘fact, law, or policy’ concerns, the Biden HHS will delay them and consult with the Office of Management and Budget about other actions.”
A report for Bloomberg Government said the Biden administration is on a “different page” about curbing drug prices than the Trump administration, noting of the Biden team awaiting “at least a dozen lawsuits … over Trump-era moves to lower drug prices”:
Biden enters the presidency with at least a dozen lawsuits waiting over Trump-era moves to lower drug prices, an issue the new administration will likely tackle in its own way. The Department of Health and Human Services under Biden inherits challenges to rules that tie drug reimbursement to cheaper foreign drug prices and allow medication imports from Canada. It also faces complaints over Trump’s push for drugmakers to ship discounted drugs bought by low-income health centers to commercial contract pharmacies.
Biden reversed Trump's Executive Order to reduce pricing for insulin and epinephrine.
Democrats want higher insulin prices? pic.twitter.com/w85pkIAchG
— Mary Vought (@MaryVought) January 22, 2021
Trump signed four executive orders in July that directed the secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to “[e]nd a shadowy system of kickbacks by middlemen that lurks behind the high out-of-pocket costs many Americans face at the pharmacy counter,” the department announced at the time, noting that they would provide Americans more options on purchasing the drugs.
During the signing ceremony, Trump said the high price of insulin and EpiPens have cut off low-income people in “desperate” need of the treatments.
“The four orders I’m signing today will be on the prescription drug market in terms of pricing and everything else to make these medications affordable and accessible for all Americans,” said Trump, surrounded by health care professionals. “The first order will require federal community health centers to pass the giant discounts they received from drug companies on insulin and EpiPens directly to their patients. You know insulin became so expensive people weren’t able to use it. They desperately needed it.”
“We have it to a level that you’re not going to believe,” he continued. “EpiPens — likewise you have been hearing horrible stories about EpiPens over the last six or seven years, horrible, horrible, horrible increases for where they went to almost nothing to massive amounts of money. We’re changing that right now.”
“Under this order,” Trump added, “the price of insulin for affected patients will come down to just pennies a day, pennies a day from numbers that you weren’t even able to think about. It’s a massive cost savings.”
Trump said providers “should not be receiving discounts for themselves while charging their poorest patients massive full prices.”
Along with the order ending the “shadowy system of kickbacks by middlemen,” another order would allow states, wholesalers, and pharmacies to offer “safe and legal importation of prescription drugs from Canada and other countries where the price for the identical drug is incredibly lower,” Trump underscored.