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HHS Drug Pricing Advisor to Depart

By Jack O'Brien  
   August 13, 2019

John O'Brien had replaced Dan Best after his predecessor's death in November 2018.

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar announced Monday that John O'Brien, who has served as Senior Advisor to the Secretary for Drug Pricing Reform, would be leaving HHS soon. 

O'Brien, a pharmacist with both private and public sector experience in healthcare policy, was named to the role in December 2018 after the unexpected passing of his predecessor Dan Best a month earlier.

Related: Azar Names New Drug Pricing Advisor Following Predecessor's Death

Azar praised O'Brien in a press release for helping advance the Trump administration's drug pricing policy, calling him "one of the key architects" of the American Patients First blueprint.

"John O’Brien's time at HHS will leave a legacy of lasting improvements to American healthcare, including the way that Americans pay for prescription drugs," Azar said in a statement. "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."

O'Brien will be replaced by John Brooks, who currently serves as Principal Deputy Director of the Center for Medicare, though HHS did not specify when the change would be made.

O'Brien's exit occurs in the midst of widespread discussion in Washington, D.C. about how to tackle high prescription drug prices, with the Senate and House of Representatives proposing different remedies.

Related: Blame Game, Again: PBM Execs Jockey With Senators Over Price Transparency

Last month, the Senate Finance Committee Passed a bipartisan drug pricing bill that included a $3,100 cap on what Medicare beneficiaries pay out-of-pocket on prescription drugs, set to take place in 2022, and a limit on prescription drug price hikes under Medicare Part D.

In the lead-up to the vote, which included some Republican defections, Azar reportedly lobbied members to pass the bill, indicating that the White House backs the measure. 

Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's health policy aide Wendell Primus said the lower chamber is readying its own drug pricing proposal for a September debut. 

Related: Senate Finance Committee Passes Bipartisan Drug Pricing Bill

Jack O'Brien is the finance editor at HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.

Photo credit: Gil C / Shutterstock

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