President Trump is following through on one of his main campaign promises: going after big pharma and holding them accountable. While these industries are armed with top lobbyists in DC, previous administration have failed to take on this group time and time again. But as Trump was campaigning in 2016, he pointed out a very obvious problem in our healthcare system, which is the US’ drug prices are significantly higher than other countries. Lawmakers in Congress, who benefit from fat checks from pharmaceutical companies, talk about insurance burdens, but never point out an obvious cause for the cost. President Trump did last week, signing four executive orders that he said he knew would make lots of his rich pharmaceutical executive friends angry. He was right, and pharma executives snubbed Trump today by canceling a meeting at the White House. While the executive orders have not been released, they are clearly trying to send a message to the president.
But President Trump is not taking the bait. In a series of tweets, Trump wrote, “Big pharma is taking television ads trying to make the case that I am raising prescription drug prices on seniors. The ad is a lie! What I have done will lead to a 50% REDUCTION in prices, at least, & Big Pharma is not happy about it. No other President would be able to produce what I have . So when you see those nasty ads from Big Pharma remember, the only reason they are going ll out is the massive PRICE REDUCTIONS you are getting – not good for them. Plus, I was only President in 51 years that to a Prescription D reduction.”
In the meeting, drugmakers and President Trump were supposed to discuss the executive orders. But there are reports that lobbyists are in a tailspin from his decision, and advised industry leaders not to attend as they try to repair the damage. The executive order links Medicare payments for specific medicines to lower drug prices abroad. The argument from big pharma is that this decision will make drug access more difficult, as well as inhibit innovation.
Trump said on Friday that drugmakers have a month to present a better idea. The pharmaceutical industry has a history of dramatically increasing drug prices in the United States, with the argument that because of the money invested to create a new drug, they need to be able to make a return on their investment. For years, however, those lobbying agains the industry have shown how the burden falls on insurance companies, and then on the American individual who could get the price for a much lower cost abroad.
A PhRMA spokesperson released a statement about the schedule meeting, writing, “The president’s plan to import policies from socialized health care systems abroad is disrupting our work [on Covid-19 therapies] and diverting our focus away from those life-saving efforts. We remain willing to discuss ways to lower costs for patients at the pharmacy counter. However, we remain steadfastly opposed to policies that would allow foreign governments to set prices for medicines in the United States.”
President Trump’s executive orders focus on four different areas for reform. The first order lowers the price of insulin and epinephrine by requiring health centers to pass along discounts from drug companies to low-income Americans. The second order opens up the ability for the United States to import prescription drugs from Canada and other countries where the price for the drug is significantly lower. The third takes out the “middlemen,” which are the secret deals that happen between the drug manufacturers and the pharmacy “benefit manager.” Through taking out the “middlemen,” patients are able to benefit from available discounts at the pharmacy. And finally, the court order makes sure Americans pay the same, lowest price of a drug as offered in other economically advanced countries for Medicare Part B drugs. The White House said that the US often pays “80% more for these drugs than other developed nations.”
President Trump understands the impact his orders will have on the pharma companies, stating, “The four order that I’m signing today will completely restructure the prescription drug market, in terms of pricing and everything else, to make these medications affordable and accessible for all Americans.” It is a historical move from a president, and will dramatically change the healthcare landscape if he registers the four orders.