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NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump is considering a sweeping executive order that would cut prices on virtually all branded prescription drugs sold to Medicare and other government programs, according to two industry sources who had discussions with the White House.


The order under discussion would be much broader than the Administration’s previously disclosed proposal to lower prices on physician administered, or Part B, drugs by tying prices to lower costs in other countries.

The administration is now looking at ways to use this or a similar method to lower prices in Medicare’s much larger Part D, which is for widely used prescription drugs patients take at home, such as for cholesterol and blood pressure, the sources said.

The White House declined to comment, and it was unclear how far along the any such plan was from being undertaken. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, also declined to comment.

Americans pay the highest prices for prescription drugs in the world as most other developed nations have single-payer systems in which the government negotiates drug prices for its people.

The U.S. government in 2016 spent around $29 billion on prescription drugs in Medicare’s Part B, which includes most injectable drugs, and nearly $100 billion in Part D, which covers as pills and other drugs usually dispensed in pharmacies.

Trump is also considering extending the pricing controls to the U.S. Department of Defense, which runs the Tricare health plan for military personnel and their families, as well as the Department of Veterans Affairs, the sources said.


Executive orders often go through various drafts and incarnations, and sometimes competing versions of the same order are floated within the Trump White House.

In addition, some executive orders do not end up being signed.

The drug pricing executive order could come as soon as the next few weeks, the sources said.

U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Ron Wyden - the top Republican and Democrat on the U.S. Senate Finance Committee - earlier this week announced a proposal to lower prescription drug prices that could save $100 billion in costs to government healthcare programs.

The White House could delay the executive order if the Senate bill looks likely to garner bipartisan support, the sources said.

If implemented, the executive order could significantly increase the number of drugmakers whose sales could take a hit. AbbVie, Eli Lilly and Co and Pfizer Inc all have substantial exposure to Medicare Part D. Companies with major exposure to Part B include Merck & Co, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co and Roche

In early July, Trump said his administration was working on a drug pricing executive order with a “favored-nation clause, where we pay whatever the lowest nation’s price is.” Trump has called the lower prices paid by other nations “global freeloading.”

Trump, a Republican, has struggled to deliver on a pledge to lower drug prices before the November 2020 election.

Healthcare costs are expected to be a major focus of the campaign by Trump and Democratic rivals vying to run against him.

The Trump administration earlier this month scrapped an ambitious policy that would have required health insurers to pass billions of dollars in rebates they receive from drugmakers to Medicare patients.

Also in July, a federal judge struck down a Trump administration rule that would have forced pharmaceutical companies to include the wholesale prices of their drugs in television advertising.

Explainer: What Google, Facebook could face in U.S. antitrust probe

This article was sourced from Reuters

(Reuters) - The U.

S. Department of Justice is investigating whether big technology companies are engaged in anticompetitive behavior, addressing a rising tide of criticism they have become too powerful to the detriment of consumers.


The Justice Department has said it will investigate “whether and how” online platforms in “search, social media, and some retail services online” are engaging in behavior that stifles competition and harms consumers.

While the Justice Department did not name any targets in announcing the probe on Tuesday, sources have indicated Alphabet Inc’s Google (GOOGL.O), social media giant Facebook Inc (FB.O), online retailer Inc (AMZN.O) and possibly Apple Inc (AAPL.O) will likely be reviewed.

Here’s what regulators could focus on at the big technology companies:


The Justice Department is expected to focus on allegations Google harms competitors by favoring its own products in search results, though sources told Reuters the department will look at all of Google’s businesses, including advertising and its Android mobile platform.

Google has said it is transparent in how it promotes its own services and that changes to its search algorithms are made with consumers in mind.

Google has also faced criticism for allegedly abusing its dominance in advertising. Platforms that want to host advertising on their own sites often have to go through Google or Facebook to do so.

European antitrust regulators fined Google $5 billion in 2018 and ordered it to stop using its Android platform to block competitors.

The European Union alleged that Google’s illegal actions include forcing device manufacturers, who use the Android platform on their phones, to pre-install Google apps on devices, blocking out competitors’ apps.

Google said in a blog post that it would “do more to ensure” that Android users know about other options they can download.

Republican U.S. lawmakers have also charged that Google and other tech companies are biased against conservative voices. Republican Senator Ted Cruz said in April that “using the powers of monopoly to censor political speech ... raises real antitrust issues.”

Karan Bhatia, Google’s vice president of government affairs and public policy, denied those claims in a Fox News op-ed and Democrats say there is no evidence to back the charges.


Facebook has faced criticism it is a monopoly, with over 2.4 billion monthly users as of April this year, about a third of the world’s population.

In 2012, Facebook bought social media app Instagram, one of its competitors. In 2014, it bought another of its competitors, messaging platform WhatsApp.


In a U.S. House of Representatives hearing last week, Facebook’s head of global policy development Matt Perault stressed Facebook’s competitors as evidence it is not a monopoly.

Critics have called for Facebook to sell off WhatsApp and Instagram.

The company has also been criticized for copying the “story” function that competitor Snapchat (SNAP.N) is known for, implementing the option to share a photo temporarily on both Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


In the United States, half of all online shopping transactions happen on Amazon, giving the e-commerce company sway over merchants that use its platforms. Amazon has been criticized for its power over third-party sellers on its website, who must pay for advertising to compete against first-party and private label sales by Amazon’s own brands.

Amazon has also faced criticism that its low prices have hurt brick-and-mortar retailers, including some who have closed because they could not compete.

But in a 2018 letter to shareholders, Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos said “Amazon remains a small player in global retail” because most commerce still happens offline.

Amazon reached an agreement with German antitrust authorities last week to change its agreement with third-party merchants following an investigation of complaints from the sellers that its terms were unfair.

European Union regulators are investigating Amazon’s data agreements with sellers.

The European Commission has been seeking feedback about Amazon’s dual role as a marketplace for merchants and as a competitor in that marketplace.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in an interview with CNBC on Wednesday there was “no question” that Amazon limits competition and has harmed U.S. retailers.

In response, an Amazon spokesman said small businesses are “thriving with Amazon” and that independent sellers make up more than 58% of its gross merchandise sales.


Last month, app developers Donald R.

Cameron and Illinois Pure Sweat Basketball alleged in federal court that Apple’s policy of only allowing the downloading of iPhone apps through its official App Store is anticompetitive. Apple mandates developers to price apps in tiers ending in 99 cents and takes up to a 30% commission from developers on app sales.

Music-streaming app Spotify (SPOT.N) has alleged that App Store policies make it difficult to compete against Apple Music for paid subscribers.

Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook told CBS News in an interview that Apple does not have a dominant position in any market.