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The American Medical Association convened doctors this week. Photo: Bob Herman / Axios

The American Medical Association says it supports the idea of the federal government negotiating lower prices for prescription drugs. But a top AMA leader made it clear to a roomful of doctors Wednesday that the group will never accept "price-fixing" — and suggested that's largely because of economic self-interest.

Key quote: "What we are very concerned about at the AMA level, if we advocated for the price-fixing of pharmaceuticals, we have no leg to stand on if we say we don't like price-fixing for physicians." — Barbara McAneny, AMA president-elect

Why it matters: The question was about negotiating drug prices, but McAneny answered it with an argument against government-set price controls — and in doing so, sounded like she viewed them as one and the same. An AMA spokesman insists the organization hasn't changed its official policy, which says it supports negotiating Medicare Part D drug prices.

Between the lines: Many health care industry groups are united in opposing government price-setting because, they argue, it would contradict free-market principles and could stifle innovation. But don't look past the obvious: Groups are protecting their incomes.

Context: McAneny, an oncologist, made her comments in Chicago at a meeting of the AMA's Relative Value Scale Update Committee, an influential panel known as the RUC. A crowd member asked her if the AMA was "missing an opportunity to throw the weight of our collective influence" behind asking the federal government to negotiate drug prices, which Medicare cannot do by law.

  • The AMA has been outspoken about rising drug prices and the factors behind them. "There's a lot of places where we can look at significant amounts of waste," McAneny said after calling out pharmacy benefit managers, insurance companies and specialty pharmacies.
  • However, official AMA policy currently "opposes the use of price controls in any segment of the health care industry, and continues to promote market-based strategies to achieve access to and affordability of health care goods and services." Instead, it backs transparency measures like requiring drug companies to post prices in ads.

Looking ahead: The RUC's main business of examining new payment rates for physician services starts Thursday. Medicare has said it would adopt nearly all of the RUC's recommendations for the upcoming year.

Correction: The headline and story have been updated to clarify the AMA's distinction between drug price negotiations and government price controls.

Go deeper

Prosecutors charge parents of Michigan school shooting suspect

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The parents of a 15-year-old accused of killing four students and wounding seven other people at a Michigan high school have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, according to court documents.

The latest: Lawyers for James and Jennifer Crumbley told the Detroit News they are "returning to the area to be arraigned," after law enforcement officials announced a search for the Crumbleys had been initiated.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

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Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
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Putin to demand legal guarantee against NATO expansion in call with Biden

Biden and Putin meeting in Geneva in June. Photo: Mikhail Metzel\TASS via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin is demanding a legally binding guarantee that NATO will not expand east — including to Ukraine — and plans to raise the issue in an upcoming phone call with President Biden, according to the Kremlin.

Why it matters: Russia has massed more than 94,000 troops on the border with Ukraine and could be preparing for a large-scale invasion at the end of January, Ukraine's defense minister said Friday.