Trump's key drug pricing advisor O'Brien makes HHS exit
Less than a year after being appointed senior advisor to the secretary for drug pricing reform — John O’Brien — is leaving the HHS, the agency disclosed on Monday.
O’Brien — who is a former PhRMA lobbyist and has previously worked with health insurer BlueCross BlueShield and the CMS — was considered one of the key architects of President Trump’s drug policy initiatives. He was promoted to his position in December 2018.
“From the beginning of President Trump’s administration, John led policy research, analysis and development on a number of important issues, including strengthening the Medicare program for our seniors and addressing the effects of the Affordable Care Act,” said HHS secretary Alex Azar in a statement. “Later, he turned his attention and deep expertise to prescription drug pricing. Prices and out-of-pocket costs are lower, and will go lower still, because of the work we did to execute on President Trump’s American Patients First blueprint.”
Last year, O’Brien authored a blog post advocating the use of the controversial “International Pricing Index” to usher in competition and negotiation to Medicare Part B drugs — treatments mostly administered by a healthcare provider or at a dialysis facility (the provider or facility must buy and supply the drugs), as well as certain outpatient prescription drugs. Trump is expected to unveil a “drug price index” in a speech scheduled next month, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told reporters last week.
In March, O’Brien wrote a post championing the elimination of rebates — a proposal that has since been withdrawn by the Trump administration. Months later, he extolled the virtue of the Trump administration’s requirement that drug companies display list prices of their drugs in TV ads — but a federal court overturned the ruling hours before it was stipulated to go into effect.
He will be replaced by John Brooks, who will take on O’Brien’s role in addition to his current mandate as principal deputy director of the Center for Medicare.