Last week President Biden issued a sweeping executive order aimed at promoting competition in the economy through 72 initiatives cracking down on anti-competitive practices in multiple industries.
Among other several other things, the order addresses prescription drug pricing and allows hearing aids to be sold over the counter at drug stores and it directs over a dozen federal agencies to implement these 72 initiatives to promote competition in the U.S.
The president has laid out a plan to promote competition in the health care sector, including directing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to work with states on importing prescription drugs from Canada, and direct officials to develop a “comprehensive plan” to lower drug prices in 45 days.
In addition, Biden will direct the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to evaluate hospital mergers that could be harmful to patient care, especially in rural communities.
The Trump administration had issued rules for states to apply to allow drug imports, and Florida in particular expressed interest, but no imports have actually begun. Drug-makers have also filed a lawsuit to block the rules.
The Biden administration also appears to be considering other actions to lower drug prices as part of the “comprehensive plan,” though it is not clear what steps those will be.
Some of the other actions included in the President’s order are:
- Directing the Department of Health and Human Services to consider issuing rules within 120 days to allow hearing aids to be sold over the counter.
- Directing the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice to revise their guidelines for hospital mergers to “ensure patients are not harmed by such mergers.”
- Encouraging the FTC to ban “pay for delay” agreements, where a brand-name drug company pays a generic drug company to delay introducing competition to a certain drug.
The White House blames declining competition across the economy for raising prices of necessities like prescription drugs, lowering wages for workers, and acting as a drag on growth and innovation.
This new order targets areas where it says the lack of competition increases prices and reduces access to quality care, starting with prescription drug prices.
While there is a long way to go from a presidential directive to final regulations TSCL is pleased to see the President taking these actions. Now if Congress will do its job there seems to be a real possibility of major reform this year regarding prescription drug prices.