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A nurse administers an IV drug. Photo: Lea Suzuki/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

The Biden administration axed Trump's proposed rule that would have tied some Medicare drug prices to lower overseas prices, but that regulation in its current form had almost no chance of being enacted.

What to watch: Biden's recent executive order mandates HHS to create a "comprehensive plan ... to combat high prescription drug prices and price gouging" by Aug. 23. That plan will give the clearest picture yet of what Biden will try to do to lower drug prices.

The state of play: The Trump administration's "most favored nation" rule was tied up in the courts and likely illegal based on procedural grounds.

  • However, rescinding the rule "does not reflect any judgment by HHS regarding future policy," the federal government said in its comments.
  • That means Biden isn't necessarily giving up on changing how Medicare pays for Part B drugs, but any new version of that rule would likely have to be scaled back to avoid industry lawsuits.

Between the lines: Federal drug pricing policy remained basically unchanged during the Trump years, and that's pretty much how it's been under Biden, too.

  • However, Biden's executive order told the Commerce Department to kill a proposed rule that would have prohibited the federal government from using "march-in rights" based on price — a proposal that was practically written by the pharmaceutical industry.
  • Democrats' reconciliation bill also includes "hundreds of billions in additional savings by lowering the price of prescription drugs" through Medicare negotiation of Part D drugs, which several senators have pushed for and which drug companies vehemently oppose.

The bottom line: There are a handful of legislative and regulatory drug pricing proposals floating around. Drug companies are fighting them, and want to preserve one thing more than anything else.

  • "To continue to have the ability to set launch prices. That's the Holy Grail," a pharmaceutical lobbyist said.

Go deeper

19 hours ago - Health

Study: Common antidepressant guards against COVID hospitalization

A COVID-19 intensive care unit in Rio de Janeiro in May. Photo: Fabio Teixeira/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The readily available antidepressant fluvoxamine significantly reduced COVID-related hospitalizations, according to a large study published Wednesday.

Why it matters: The clinical trial suggests that a cheap, readily available drug could dramatically reduce serious illness and death when prescribed early.

Oct 27, 2021 - Health

Merck to share antiviral COVID pill formula with developing countries

Photo: Christopher Occhicone/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Merck said Wednesday it granted the Medicines Patent Pool, a United Nations-backed nonprofit, a royalty-free license for molnupiravir, an oral antiviral COVID-19 pill that it developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.

Why it matters: The license means generic-drug companies in 105 low- and middle-income countries will be allowed to produce the experimental drug after it gains regulatory approval, which would greatly expand the availability of the medication to nations that have so far lacked access to coronavirus vaccines.

3 hours ago - Technology

Facebook changes corporate name to Meta

Screen shot of CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the company's "Connect" virtual event

CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday said the social media giant is renaming its company Meta.

Why it matters: The effort is meant to shift its image from a social media platform to a “metaverse” company that focuses on building virtual work and social communities.