Pharma Executives Ponder Possible Changes Under Trump Administration

Industry leaders meet at annual health care summit

Top executives from major U.S. drug makers gathered on December 1 at the annual Forbes Healthcare Summit in New York to discuss what lies ahead under a Donald Trump presidency as well as recent issues that have damaged the industry’s reputation.

Since he was elected, Trump, who has said he wants to scrap Obamacare and reform Medicare and Medicaid, has not addressed the sharp drug price increases that dominated the Presidential campaign. But he could be more critical of drug makers and their price hikes than the industry expects, according to a Reuters report.

At the meeting, Allergan chief executive Brent Saunders predicted that Trump could be a “more vicious tweeter” against the drug industry than his former Democratic rival Hillary Clinton had been during the campaign. He added that Americans are rightly angry about recent price increases. The industry needs to police itself or face government repercussions, he warned.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals CEO Len Schleifer said the pharma industry will be seen in a bad light as long as it maintains the common practice of taking twice-yearly, often double-digit, price increases on widely used medications. “We as an industry have used price increases to fill gaps in innovation,” he remarked.

“You can't say ‘I set the price based on the value of the drug’ and then have these egregious price increases,” Schleifer said, adding that the value of a drug to society does not increase each year.

If Trump goes ahead with his plan to overhaul U.S. health care, Pfizer CEO Ian Read said he would like to see financial risk shift from insurers to providers, such as hospitals, with an emphasis on prevention and wellness.

Merck CEO Ken Frazier said he thought that Trump’s idea of allowing the importation of cheaper drugs from other countries won’t work. The U.S. pays more than any other country for medications, and current U.S. law forbids the importation of drugs from other countries that charge far less.

“I don’t think it's going to be made possible,” Frazier said. “Every time we’ve tried to do that, no FDA commissioner has ever been willing to certify the safety of those drugs.”

Source: Reuters; December 2, 2016.