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Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for CVS Pharmacy

Drug companies haven't pledged to lower their prices once the Trump administration finalizes a rule to overhaul the rebate system used by pharmacy benefit managers. CVS Health is asking drugmakers to at least not start charging more.

Driving the news: CVS Health has sent letters to 60 pharmaceutical companies asking them not to increase the net cost of their drugs — the price after factoring in rebates — in response to the Trump administration's rule.

Between the lines: The timing will be tight on this regulation once it's finalized (there's some talk of it being delayed, for that reason) — leaving insurers without much time to restructure their Medicare drug plans for a new reality without PBM rebates.

  • Due to that tight timing, to prevent sudden last-minute premium hikes, CVS is asking drugmakers to commit to not raising the price insurance plans will pay for their drugs, no matter how the specifics of the rebate rule shake out.
  • Medicare drug plans have relied on drugmakers' existing prices as they designed their plans for next year, and will have to redesign those plans (probably with bigger premium hikes) if drugmakers raise their prices, the letter says.

What they're saying: "What we're asking is very simple help minimize uncertainty for plan sponsors and lessen the financial burden on beneficiaries and taxpayers by making this commitment," CVS spokesman T.J. Crawford said.

Go deeper: Refresher on Trump's major shakeup in the way we pay for drugs

Go deeper

USAID chief tests positive for coronavirus

An Air Force cargo jet delivers USAID supplies to Russia earlier this year. Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images

The acting administrator of the United States Agency for International Development informed senior staff Wednesday he has tested positive for coronavirus, two sources familiar with the call tell Axios.

Why it matters: John Barsa, who staffers say rarely wears a mask in their office, is the latest in a series of senior administration officials to contract the virus. His positive diagnosis comes amid broader turmoil at the agency following the election.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
6 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 shows a bright future for vaccines

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Promising results from COVID-19 vaccine trials offer hope not just that the pandemic could be ended sooner than expected, but that medicine itself may have a powerful new weapon.

Why it matters: Vaccines are, in the words of one expert, "the single most life-saving innovation ever," but progress had slowed in recent years. New gene-based technology that sped the arrival of the COVID vaccine will boost the overall field, and could even extend to mass killers like cancer.

7 hours ago - Health

Beware a Thanksgiving mirage

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Don't be surprised if COVID metrics plunge over the next few days, only to spike next week.

Why it matters: The COVID Tracking Project warns of a "double-weekend pattern" on Thanksgiving — where the usual weekend backlog of data is tacked on to a holiday.