President Donald Trump met with leaders of some of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies Tuesday morning and emphasized the need to bring down drug prices, decrease regulations and bring drug manufacturing back into the United States.
The tone of the public portion of the meeting was positive, especially given that Trump recently lashed out at the pharmaceutical industry for “getting away with murder” on prices — and threatened to use the government’s bargaining power to force down drug prices. On Tuesday, he did not specifically mention using the government’s clout to bring down prices in his open remarks before the meeting began, but seemed to leave it open to the industry to rein in pricing.
“We have to get prices down for a lot of reasons. We have no choice,” Trump said, flanked by chief executives Kenneth Frazier of Merck and Robert Hugin of Celgene. “For Medicare, for Medicaid, we have to get the prices way down.”
He added that the industry produces “extraordinary results” but the price has been “astronomical.”
In remarks before the meeting began, Trump spoke about the need to decrease regulation and for companies to create jobs and manufacture drugs in the U.S.
Eli Lilly, Amgen, Novartis, Johnson & Johnson and the lobbying organization, PhRMA, were also present at the meeting.
In his first press conference after the election, Trump said publicly that U.S. pharmaceutical firms “are getting away with murder” and the federal government should start negotiating with them directly in order to lower prices.
“PhRMA has a lot of lobbies, a lot of lobbyists, a lot of power. And there’s very little bidding on drugs,” Trump said during the press conference in New York earlier this month. “We’re the largest buyer of drugs in the world, and yet we don’t bid properly. We’re going to start bidding. We’re going to save billions of dollars over a period of time.”
Still, Trump’s nominee to head the Health and Human Services Department, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., declined to endorse that idea directly during a hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee two weeks ago. When Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., noted that other countries have lower drug costs because they negotiate with firms to set prices for government purchases, Price replied that “there are a lot of reasons for that” and said he wanted to “get to the root causes of that.”
Price, whose nomination is due to be voted on by the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday, told Sanders that he would work to ensure that “drug prices are reasonable and individuals across the country have access” to needed prescriptions.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Carolyn Y. Johnson, Juliet Eilperin