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PhRMA CEO Touts "Positive" Meeting With Trump


According to pool reports, Trump proposed a series of carrots and sticks to woo drug manufacturing back to the United States and force other countries to pay more for therapies developed here. Trump called the US subsidization of drug development "global freeloading."

President Donald J. Trump said US pharmaceutical companies “have done a tremendous job” but the industry should work with his administration on regulatory reforms to lower drug prices, according to White House pool reports and a statement from the drug makers’ top lobbyist.

“We have to get prices down for a lot of reasons,” Trump said, according to pool accounts. “We have no choice. For Medicare, for Medicaid, we have to get the prices way down, so that’s what we’re going to be talking about.”

As a candidate, Trump shared Democrat Hillary Clinton’s view that the government needed to gain bargaining power to hold down prices in Medicare. But Trump went further; he called for allowing drug imports, and he recently said the pharmaceutical industry was “getting away with murder.”

But according to a statement from Stephen J. Ubl, CEO of the Pharmaceutical Researchers of Manufacturers America (PhRMA), today’s meeting was a “positive, productive” exchange. Ubl reported he attended the meeting with 6 members of his board, and that the meeting included Vice President Mike Pence, who served as governor of Indiana, where Eli Lilly is based.

“We discussed many areas of common ground, including: advancing stronger trade agreements to level the playing field with countries around the world; reforming our tax code to spur investment and job creation here in the United States; and removing outdated regulations that drive up costs and slow innovation,” Ubl said.

Pool reports obtained by The American Journal of Managed Care said Trump proposed a series of carrots for PhRMA and sticks for other countries, which would bring jobs back to the United States while lowering prices. Trump called for:

  • Accelerating FDA approvals
  • Tax incentives to encourage research and development
  • Incentives to bring drug manufacturing jobs to the United States

Before leaving office, President Obama said in an interview with Vox that the current system of research and development—in which prices are regulated overseas but not here—does allow other countries to benefit from America’s innovation while US consumers and taxpayers bear the brunt of the cost. Trump called the current system "global freeloading" and said he would tie the nation’s trade policy to upending this dynamic. This is consistent with his calls for other nations to pull their weight in treaty organizations.

Pool reporter Herb Jackson of The Record of Hackensack, NJ, a state home to several large pharmaceutical manufacturers, reported Trump’s statement:

“I’ll oppose anything that makes it harder for smaller, younger companies to take the risk of bringing their product to a vibrantly competitive market,” Trump said. “That includes price-fixing by the biggest dog in the market, Medicare, which is what’s happening. But we can increase competition and bidding wars, big time.”

“We’re going to be lowering taxes, we’re going to be getting rid of regulations that are unnecessary,” Trump said.

His comments about price fixing come the day after a group of patients with diabetes filed a class action lawsuit alleging that the 3 largest insulin makers—Novo Nordisk, Sanofi, and Eli Lilly—are engaging in collusive behavior to raise drug prices in lock step. While pharmacy benefit managers negotiate discounts, many patients are left out of this system and spend up to $900 a month to stay alive, the suit alleges.

Executives who took part in the meeting included Bob Bradway, Amgen; Dave Ricks, Eli Lilly; Joaquin Duato, Johnson and Johnson; Ken Frazier, Merck; and Joe Jimenez, Novartis.

Polling by the Kaiser Family Foundation has shown that high drug prices frustrate Americans from across the political spectrum, and that most blame the drug companies, not insurers, for the current pricing system.

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