CMS Hammers Final Nail in the Coffin of International Reference Pricing for Drugs

December 29, 2021By Alan M. Kirschenbaum

We reported in August that CMS proposed to rescind the Most Favored Nation (MFN) drug pricing interim final rule issued in the latter days of the Trump regime.  Today, CMS finalized that proposal, effectively putting an end to the concept of international reference pricing as a means to limit drug prices.  The bipartisan idea of international reference pricing generated considerable controversy during its short lifetime.  The November 2020 rule was promptly challenged in four lawsuits, one of which resulted in a nationwide preliminary injunction against its implementation.  Though regulatory implementation was stymied, international reference pricing was carried over by Democrats into the drug pricing provisions of H.R. 5376, the Build Back Better Act, which passed the House on November 19.  However, the approach has been rejected in the version of the Build Back Better Act that is slowly taking shape in the Senate.  (See section 129001 of the most recent Finance Committee text.)  Rather than using foreign prices as benchmarks, that legislation would use a specified percentage of the non-federal average manufacturer price (NFAMP) reported by manufacturers to the Department of Veterans Affairs, in order to set a ceiling on Medicare Part B and D drug payment for selected high cost brand drugs.  With today’s action by CMS, the idea of international reference pricing for drugs has reached its demise in both the Congress and the Administration.

Categories: Health Care