A Deal on Drug Prices Undone by White House Insistence on ‘Trump Cards’

Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, would not comment specifically on the savings cards.

But he noted that Mr. Trump had held back on an executive order the industry fiercely opposed, which would tie some drug prices to the prices paid by other countries — called ‘most-favored nation’ drug pricing. Now the president is poised to link the prices that Medicare pays for drugs administered in doctors’ offices to those paid even by social democracies in Europe.

“President Trump is working to ensure American patients are no longer forced to pay outrageously higher drug prices than those in other countries,” Mr. Deere said. “President Trump signed four executive orders earlier this summer. However, he did not release the final executive order on ‘most-favored nation’ drug pricing, giving drug companies a month to come up with a counterproposal. Negotiations did not produce an acceptable alternative, so the President is moving forward.”

It appears, then, the industry will have confront the executive order it hoped to avoid.

Last Sunday, Mr. Trump released the order, which calls for the establishment of pilot programs tying some Medicare drugs to prices abroad. They are unlikely to be established before the election, and the industry is almost sure to file suit in response.

“The administration has chosen to pursue the most favored nation policy — an irresponsible and unworkable policy that will give foreign governments a say in how America provides access to treatments and cures for seniors and people struggling with devastating diseases,” said Stephen J. Ubl, who heads PhRMA.

Mr. Meadows’s gambit illustrates the extent of the last-minute scramble by White House officials to score political victories ahead of November.

With the president’s response to the coronavirus widely criticized, the White House has grasped for other ways to impress voters. In recent days, Mr. Trump has extended a ban on offshore oil drilling off the coast of Southern states, unveiled a multibillion dollar aid package for hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, some of whose residents have migrated to must-win Florida, announced another $14 billion in aid to farmers and plunged into Middle East peacemaking.

Some officials in the drug industry, though, said they found it mystifying that Mr. Meadows would play what they saw as political hardball with some of the same private-sector companies that Mr. Trump is pressuring to deliver the October surprise he craves the most: a coronavirus vaccine.