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HHS Secretary Alex Azar. Photo: Oliver Contreras-Pool/Getty Image

“In the weeks and months ahead, there is a lot of action — regulatory action that we are working on,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar told Axios in a Wednesday interview.

Driving the news: President Trump signed a bill yesterday to outlaw the “gag clauses” that pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) sometimes impose on pharmacists, preventing them from telling patients when it would be cheaper to pay cash for a prescription than to use their insurance.

“We still view ourselves as at the advanced stage of beginning at this effort” to lower drug prices, Azar said, reiterating that “everything is on the table if it helps deliver a solution.”

Between the lines: Eliminating pharmacy gag clauses had bipartisan support in Congress, and the PBM industry’s qualms faded very quickly, at least in public.

  • There isn't much more low-hanging fruit on drug prices. From here, it’s a very short road into policies — including elements of the Trump administration’s plan — that will engender hardcore opposition from one industry or another, such as PBMs or Big Pharma.

What’s next: “There’s no one single step that solves all of those issues around drug pricing. We’re chipping away at them,” Azar said.

  • He wouldn’t elaborate on the order of operations, but a proposed rule to alter the legal protections for PBM rebates is under review at the White House — strongly suggesting it’s either next, or very close to next, on the itinerary.

The bottom line: PBMs continue to take the biggest beating from the Trump administration, though Azar said pharma could still have a turn on the front burner.

  • “We’re taking on anybody that we need to take on,” he told me.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

McConnell drops filibuster demand, paving way for power-sharing deal

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (R) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell attend a joint session of Congress. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has abandoned his demand that Democrats state, in writing, that they would not abandon the legislative filibuster.

Between the lines: McConnell was never going to agree to a 50-50 power sharing deal without putting up a fight over keeping the 60-vote threshold. But the minority leader ultimately caved after it became clear that delaying the organizing resolution was no longer feasible.

7 hours ago - Technology

Scoop: Google won't donate to members of Congress who voted against election results

Sen. Ted Cruz led the group of Republicans who opposed certifying the results. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Google will not make contributions from its political action committee this cycle to any member of Congress who voted against certifying the results of the presidential election, following the deadly Capitol riot.

Why it matters: Several major businesses paused or pulled political donations following the events of Jan. 6, when pro-Trump rioters, riled up by former President Trump, stormed the Capitol on the day it was to certify the election results.

8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Minority Mitch still setting Senate agenda

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Chuck Schumer may be majority leader, yet in many ways, Mitch McConnell is still running the Senate show — and his counterpart is about done with it.

Why it matters: McConnell rolled over Democrats unapologetically, and kept tight control over his fellow Republicans, while in the majority. But he's showing equal skill as minority leader, using political jiujitsu to convert a perceived weakness into strength.

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