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Next month, the National Institutes of Health is expected to decide whether to proceed with a request to widen access to a pricey cancer treatment by using a controversial provision of a federal law, a decision that is being closely watched for signs that the Biden administration may seek additional ways to address the high cost of medicines.

The development comes as Washington grapples with an increasingly vexing pocketbook issue for many Americans. But with legislation to tackle prescription drug pricing stalled in Congress, there is pressure on the White House to appease restive consumers. For this reason, the NIH deliberation on whether to hold a hearing about patents on Xtandi, a prostate cancer drug, is prompting speculation.

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