On Friday afternoon, President Trump announced the issuance of four Executive Orders (EOs) directing federal agency action on drug pricing. Of greatest concern, is an EO that called for Medicare to limit payment for drugs to the lowest price available in any “economically comparable” country. This EO would go into effect on August 24, 2020 unless an agreement is reached with biopharmaceutical companies on an alternative, or if Congress acts to address drug pricing by that same date. In addition, three additional EOs were issued: one focused on passing rebates on to Medicare beneficiaries at the point of sale; another expanding drug importation; and one lowering out-of-pocket costs for insulin and injectable epinephrine at federal community health centers. MassBio’s President & CEO Bob Coughlin issued a statement in opposition to the Order forcing Medicare to adopt international reference pricing.
Also in Washington, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a widely-attended hearing entitled, “Pathway to a Vaccine: Efforts to Develop a Safe, Effective and Accessible COVID-19 Vaccine” to examine COVID-19 vaccine development timelines, potential pricing arrangements, and public education efforts to encourage the use of vaccines.
Last week in Massachusetts, the House released a health care bill, H4871, An Act Putting Patients First. This legislation is limited in scope, mainly focused on telehealth services. It also looks to extend emergency orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic relative to testing and treatment for the coronavirus, out-of-network rates and temporary licenses for certain health care workers. Governor Baker filed another one-month budget bill to keep state government operational through August while he and legislative leaders wait for Congress to decide on another COVID-19 relief package.
The formal legislative session in Massachusetts is slated to end on Friday, July 31. The House began debate on their economic development bill on Monday and this will continue into Tuesday. Debate on their health care bill is likely to follow. These issues, as well as several others major bills, will need to be reconciled by a House/Senate conference committees quickly before the midnight deadline on Friday barring an agreement between the House and Senate to extend the session beyond July 31. There is growing expectation that some kind of extension will happen as it is increasingly likely that the Legislature will need to return later this year to tackle the FY2021 state budget once there is further clarity about federal aid and reimbursement levels to states.
Also, this week MassBio released its 2020 Industry Snapshot highlighting the Massachusetts biopharma’s industry’s continued growing employment, investment and drug development.