During a meeting with top pharmaceutical executives last week, President Trump promised to cut FDA regulations in order incentivize a lowering of drug prices
In a move sure to please Americans on both sides of the political aisle, President Trump has called upon the nation’s top pharmaceutical company executives to lower drug prices nationwide. During a meeting at the White House last Tuesday, Trump told drugmakers there were charging for too much domestically for their products while also promising to cut back on regulations in order to get new “innovative” medicines to market faster. Trump said that “the pricing has been astronomical”, adding that “you folks have done a very great job over the years but we have to get prices down.”
Indeed, Americans are estimated to pay at least three times more for drugs relative to other nations, though the figure sometimes much higher in the case of some specific pharmaceuticals. He also promised to spur innovation and the speed with which new drugs are approved through the removal of certain regulations – part of Trump’s planned reforms intended to “streamline” the Federal Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
Many of the CEOs present embraced Trump’s proposals. Dave Ricks, CEO of Eli Lilly & Co, told Trump during the meeting that “some of policies you’ve come out and suggested I think can help us do more – tax, regulations.” The CEOs of Merck & Co, Celgene Corp, and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America also embraced Trump’s call for lower taxes and fewer regulations. After the meeting, Merck CEO Ken Frazier told reporters that the industry was ready to work with Trump, stating that “I think all these things come together to create a system that’s good for innovation, that’s good for jobs” and patients.
In addition, Sean Spicer, White House Press Secretary, alleged that Amgen Inc. CEO Bob Bradway had promised to add 1,600 domestic jobs by transferring some oversea operations back to the U.S. as a direct result of the recent meeting between the president and industry executives. Amgen had previously announced in 2014 that it planned to eliminate as many as 2,900 U.S. jobs. However, Bloomberg reported that the company has yet to release any specifics about the addition of new jobs.
Though industry leaders seemed eager to work with the Trump administration, the pharmaceutical lobby in Congress appears to be currying favor with Republican congressmen likely to oppose Trump’s proposals. Trump had previously disconcerted pharmaceutical lobbyists during a January 12th press conference when he said that “pharma has a lot of lobbyists and a lot of power and there is very little bidding. We’re the largest buyer of drugs in the world and yet we don’t bid properly and we’re going to save billions of dollars.” These comments also caused pharmaceutical and biotech stocks to tumble the most in three months.
Now, in the wake of the recent meeting, some Republican congressmen with ties to the pharmaceutical industry have expressed their uncertainty regarding Trump’s proposals, particularly those involving his administration negotiating directly with drug companies over Medicare and Medicaid drug prices. “I would be cautious in affirming that is the best approach to take,” Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker of North Carolina told a group of reporters last Wednesday, adding that he had several “concerns” about the new administration’s stated plans to take an active role in bargaining for lower drug prices. During the 2016 campaign, Walker received $39,360 from health professionals and $18,000 from the pharmaceutical industry. Walker’s recent statements, as well as those of other Republican congressmen, suggest that Congress will determine if Trump’s bid to lower domestic drug prices will ultimately be successful.
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