WASHINGTON – Unable to land the big deal with Congress to curb drug costs, President Donald Trump on Friday moved on his own to allow imports of cheaper medicines, along with other limited steps that could have some election-year appeal.
At a White House ceremony, Trump signed four executive orders. One was about importation. The others would direct drugmaker rebates straight to patients, provide insulin and EpiPens at steep discounts to low-income people, and use lower international prices to pay for some Medicare drugs.
Trump cast his directives as far-reaching, but they mostly update earlier administration ideas that have not yet gone into effect.
“I’m unrigging the system that is many decades old,” he declared, promising “massive” savings.
Consumers may not notice immediate changes, since the orders must be carried out by the federal bureaucracy and could face court challenges.
Democrats, meanwhile, are eager to draw a contrast between Trump and their own sweeping plans to authorize Medicare to negotiate lower prices with pharmaceutical companies, an idea the president had backed as a candidate. A bill by Speaker Nancy Pelosi already passed the House and aligns with presidential candidate Joe Biden's approach.
Friday's event was definitely not the bill-signing the White House had once hoped for. Trump came into office complaining that pharmaceutical companies were “getting away with murder” and promising to bring them under control. Nearly four years later, things are much the same despite some recent moderation in price increases.
Trump pulled his punches, Pelosi said in a statement. “After promising that he would ‘negotiate like crazy’ for lower prescription drug prices, it is clear that President Trump meant not negotiate at all,” she said, adding that if Trump is serious about lowering prices he should tell Senate Republicans to pass her bill.