Why does Trump want foreign countries to set Medicare drug prices?

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Trump put us in charge!

Does anyone else find it ironic that the “America First” president has issued an Executive Order that says foreign countries will set drug prices for the US? President Trump has ordered Medicare to literally cede drug price decisions to France, Germany, Japan or New Zealand –where prices are dramatically lower than here. Yes, the idea is to take the lowest price that any of the other rich countries negotiate and use that as Medicare’s price.

What’s next? Will the EPA adopt France’s emission standards? Will the SEC let Italy set the rules for Wall Street? Will Medicare chip in to fund the cost of comparative effectiveness research and negotiations currently borne by foreign governments? Of course not.

So how do we understand this apparent transfer of power overseas? Two ways:

  • First, the president is trying to find any path he can to get an achievement on drug prices before the election. This one is simplistic, understandable and dramatic.
  • Second, it’s not really about following the lead of other countries. Rather it’s about forcing drug companies to raise prices in other countries in order to avoid losing out on the big US market. It is distinctly Trumpian in that it punishes our allies and blames them for “freeloading.”

It does make sense for US payers, including Medicare, to employ value based pricing mechanisms like those developed by the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) and to negotiate prices. But we should reward true innovation and be willing to pay up for breakthroughs -yes, even paying hundreds of thousands or millions per patient for great products. I don’t want the US to leave those decisions to anyone else.


By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group

September 14, 2020

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