President Donald Trump has signed four executive orders aimed at cutting prescription drug prices in the US.
“The four orders I’m signing today will completely restructure the prescription drug market,” said Mr Trump, who has long criticised “astronomical” prices.
The measures would allow discounts and import of cheaper drugs from abroad.
Mr Trump will meet pharmaceutical bosses on Tuesday, but some industry analysts have criticised the move, saying it would not have much effect.
“This administration has decided to pursue a radical and dangerous policy to set prices based on rates paid in countries that he [President Trump] has labelled as socialist, which will harm patients today and into the future,” Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America said in a statement.
It said Mr Trump’s move was “a reckless distraction that impedes our ability to respond to the current [coronavirus] pandemic – and those we could face in the future”.
President Trump’s administration has been criticised for its response for the worsening Covid-19 crises, as the number of confirmed virus-related deaths in America has now topped 145,000.
Since taking office, Mr Trump has made repeated attacks against those who set drug prices and has pledged to take radical steps to reduce them.
But with the presidential election just several months away, industry experts have voiced doubts that any major decisions could come into force before the 3 November vote.
They also say that the White House has limited power to implement drug pricing policies.
Executive orders do not have any automatic legal force and can also be challenged in court.
According to a 2019 report by the OECD group of industrialised nations, the US spends roughly twice the average amount spent by other member countries on pharmaceuticals per head.
For example, where the UK paid £398 ($497) per head in 2015, the USA paid $1,162.
This is despite having similar levels of prescription drug use.