Lesley Yeung, Member of the Firm in the Health Care & Life Sciences practice, in the firm’s Washington, DC, office, was quoted in Axios, in “How Trump Could Weaken Medicare Drug Pricing Negotiations,” by Maya Goldman.

Following is an excerpt:

If Donald Trump returns to the White House, the self-proclaimed master negotiator could get his shot at brokering Medicare prices for drugs.

Why it matters: Trump first ran for president bucking conservative orthodoxy by vowing to negotiate drug prices, though he later abandoned that pledge.

But the Democrats' drug pricing law would require the GOP frontrunner to negotiate Medicare prices for some drugs if he wins a second term, and former Trump health officials expect he would use executive power to soften the government's approach.

Catch up quick: The Biden administration last week kicked off negotiations over the first set of 10 high-cost drugs, a milestone for Democrats who long supported leveraging the government's purchasing power to rein in drug prices.

President Biden is campaigning on his drug pricing victories, drawing a contrast with Republicans who have widely panned negotiations and other measures they argue will hurt drug development.

Though Trump remains critical of the pharmaceutical industry, he hasn't made drug pricing a focus of his campaign the same way he did in 2016 or 2020.

Future administrations won't have much flexibility to dismantle or ignore Medicare drug price negotiations without a change from Congress.

The Inflation Reduction Act sets out how many drugs Medicare must negotiate, what factors it should consider, and the types of drugs up for negotiations.

But Medicare has discretion in how it determines the negotiated price — and that's where Trump or another Republican administration would have leeway to dial back negotiating powers. …

The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

Trump last June pledged to "take on Big Pharma" by reviving his failed push to tie what Medicare pays for physician-administered drugs to cheaper prices overseas.

It's not clear whether Trump would push for legislative changes to drug negotiations. Trump advisers said he would "gut" the IRA's climate and energy provisions, while key Republican lawmakers have expressed interest in repealing drug negotiations.

Meanwhile, drug companies are suing to stop Medicare negotiations in court. If the challenges aren't settled before next year, a Trump administration could decide to drop the government's defense against the lawsuits. …

The intrigue: Trump may not want to spend as much time on drug pricing in a second term …

Medicare negotiations are broadly popular with Americans. Three-quarters of Republicans and more than 80% of Americans overall support allowing the government to negotiate lower Medicare drug prices, according to a Gallup-West Health poll last year.

Drug price negotiations could follow a similar trajectory to the ACA, said Lesley Yeung, a partner at law firm Epstein Becker Green who advises drugmakers and other health care companies.

"The longer it goes on, the more entrenched it'll be, [and] the harder it would be to unwind," she said.

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