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White House backs testing, vaccines boost in coronavirus bill, to unveil drug pricing orders Friday

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Senate Republican leaders and the White House have agreed to include tens of billions of dollars for COVID-19 vaccines in a coronavirus relief bill, according to a draft of agreement obtained by BioCentury.

The agreement comes as the White House gears up to issue executive orders on drug pricing on Friday.

The Senate-White House coronavirus relief act agreement, which is subject to negotiation with House Democrats, includes $15 billion for NIH; a separate $26 billion for vaccine testing, distribution and use; and $5 billion for vaccine distribution overseas.

The White House and Senate Republicans have also agreed to include streamlined loan forgiveness for paycheck protection program loans under $150,000 and to create a forgiveness process for loans under $1 million.

The White House’s press schedule for Friday includes a 3 p.m. press conference at which President Donald Trump is slated to deliver remarks regarding and sign executive orders on lowering drug prices.

Pharma industry lobbyists who have been bracing for the announcement have been told that HHS Secretary Alex Azar has failed to persuade President Trump to include Medicare Part D rebate reform.

The orders are expected to include a “most favored nation” regulation that would cap payments for some drugs at levels paid in other developed countries. The provisions, which would be linked to an International Pricing Index regulation, are not likely to be put into effect before the November elections.

In addition, orders on large-scale importation of prescription drugs, and use of 340B hospitals to distribute free insulin and EpiPens, are expected.

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