Trump touts less regs, cheaper drugs for pharma industry

BOSTON, Mass. (STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE) – President Donald Trump has twin messages for the pharmaceutical industry: lower your prices and the federal government will lower the regulatory bar at unprecedented levels while ensuring public safety.

In a meeting with pharmaceutical executives in the White House, the president also said the federal government would end “foreign freeloading” according to a pool report.

“Our trade policy will prioritize that foreign countries pay their fair share for U.S. manufactured drugs so our drug companies have greater financial resources to accelerate the development of new cures,” Trump said, according to the report. “And I think it’s so important. Right now, it’s very unfair what other countries are doing to us.”

As the president and the Republican Congress have made clear their intention to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the president met with executives of Merck, Eli Lilly and Novartis about drug development and regulation – a matter of major import for the state’s vibrant biotech sector.

According to the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, there were 63,000 people employed in the biopharma industry in Massachusetts in 2015. Novartis was the fourth largest biopharma employer in the Bay State that year, according to MassBio’s annual report.

“You folks have done a terrific job over the years, but we have to get prices down for a lot of reasons. 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,” Trump said, according to the White House. “We’re also going to be streamlining the process so that from your standpoint when you have drug you can actually get it approved, if it works instead of waiting for many, many years.”

Trump has long favored enabling Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies on drug prices. According to the Health Affairs blog, a 2003 law banned Medicare Part D from negotiating drug prices.

While his party controls Congress, Trump has so far made several policy changes via executive order. The president said he will “fairly soon” name someone to streamline the Food and Drug Administration to speed up the process of regulating drugs.

“We’re going to get rid of a tremendous number of regulations,” Trump said. “I know you have some problems where you cannot even think about opening up new plants and then you can’t get approval for the plant and then you can’t get approval to make the drug.”

According to the pool report, the president said, “We’re going to be cutting regulations at a level nobody’s ever seen before. And we’re going to have tremendous protection for the people, maybe more protection.”

Robert Hugin, executive chairman of Celgene, reportedly said, “These changes are going to be great for the country.”