President Trump Holds White House Meeting With Pharma Bosses

Execs accused of charging “astronomical” prices

President Donald Trump has met with executives from the pharmaceutical industry at the White House, according to a Reuters report. Earlier this month, he accused drug makers of “getting away with murder” on what they charge the government for medications.

Joe Jimenez, chief executive at Novartis and chairman-elect of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), was among the attendees. Jimenez had said that he wanted to talk to Trump about efforts to develop outcomes-based pricing models, which would pay for clinical results, rather than a flat price per pill, as well as Trump’s plan to replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

CEOs from Merck, Johnson & Johnson, Celgene, Eli Lilly, and Amgen were also in attendance.

Pharma executives have tried to walk a careful line in defending their industry while expressing optimism that the United States would continue to reward scientific advances, according to Reuters.

At the meeting, Trump told the drug makers that they were charging “astronomical” prices and promised to negotiate better bargains for government health programs.

“You folks have done a very great job over the years, but we have to get the prices down,” he said, according to BloombergPolitics.

In the past, the president threatened to have the government negotiate prices directly with the pharma industry on behalf of Medicare and Medicaid, which services tens of millions of Americans. “Competition is key to lowering drug prices,” he said.

At a January 12 news conference, Trump told reporters 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.”

At the White House meeting, Trump also vowed to speed up approval times for new medications at the FDA and to slash tax regulations on manufacturers.

“Some of the policies you’ve come out and suggested I think can help us do more,” Lilly CEO Dave Ricks told the president.

But it’s not clear that Trump has the support of key Republicans for his harshest drug price policies, which have typically been opposed by conservatives. Representative Mark Walker of North Carolina, chairman of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), a conservative group, said last week that he had “concerns” about Trump’s stated plans to bargain with pharmaceutical companies over Medicare drug prices.

“I would be cautious in affirming that is the best approach to take,” he told reporters.

Moreover, Trump’s own nominee to run the Department of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, wouldn’t commit to bidding last week when asked about the topic at a Senate Finance hearing on his nomination.

Sources: Reuters; January 31, 2017; and BloombergPolitics; January 31, 2017.