Anonymous White House sources say President Donald Trump is preparing to issue an executive order to curb drug prices.
Trump is scheduled to meet with top advisers on June 16 to explore options to prevent pharmaceutical companies from hiking the cost of medication, Bloomberg reported.
Attendees at the meeting, which will be chaired by Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, will include Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services Tom Price.
Cutting drug prices was one of Trump's campaign promises during the 2016 election. However, Republicans in Congress have yet to vote on any measure to address the issue.
Trump previously attacked pharmaceutical companies, stating that they were "getting away with murder" by implementing price increases. Two examples of this which gained widespread attention were Mylan NV's decision to raise the cost of its EpiPen by 400 percent to $600 for two shots, and Turing Pharmaceuticals AG's move to increase the price of Daraprim from $13.50 a pill to $750. The EpiPen product is a life-saving drug for people with allergies.
Sources said that the administration is working on an initial executive order intended to come out soon, followed by a more extensive directive at a later date.
Price told the Senate on June 8 that drug prices remained "an absolute priority" for the Trump administration, Fierce Pharma reported.
Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow questioned Price's comment, arguing that the Trump administration's 2018 budget did not include any funds to bring down the cost of prescription drugs. Stabenow noted that instead, it included $25 billion in tax cuts for pharmaceutical companies, "paid for by the people who are seeing their prescription drug prices go up."
Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley has called for legislation to ensure that drugs are categorized correctly. Mylan was able to overcharge the taxpayer by more than $1 billion over the past decade because it classified its EpiPen as a generic rather than a branded drug. Generic drugs are sold to the government with a smaller discount than branded drugs.
"I'm very interested in the executive order," added Grassley, Bloomberg reported.
The prospect that Trump could issue the order within weeks triggered a sell-off of drug companies' stocks. The iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF was down 1.1 percent following the report.
"One thing that we hear is on the table for an executive order is the directive for the Trump administration to move towards value-based contracting for pharmaceutical purchasing. I think that is a good, positive, constructive outcome for the industry and for patients," Allergen CEO Brent Saunders told CNBC.
Value-based contracting is a structure under which pharmaceutical companies and insurers reach an agreement on how much will be paid for each drug based on its performance.
Sources: Bloomberg, Fierce Pharma, CNBC / Photo credit: Office of the President of the United States/Wikimedia Commons