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Available Drugs, Affordable Drugs

by Paul Howard

A prescription for the new FDA commissioner

Over the past several months, President Trump has given the biotech industry a preview of the grand bargain he expects from it: It will accept more U.S.-based manufacturing and lower drug prices for government programs, in return for tax reform that would benefit the industry, tougher trade deals that would better protect U.S. biotech patents (in Canada, China, and elsewhere), improved market access in the U.K. and in Germany and other EU countries, and, most important, streamlined Food and Drug Administration regulations.

His broadsides against the industry, both during the 2016 campaign and after his November 8 victory, have left executives and investors nervous, and with good reason. His rhetoric on drug pricing is indistinguishable from that of Senator Bernie Sanders. In early January, in his first press conference as president-elect, Trump said that the industry was “getting away with murder” on drug pricing, adding that “pharma has a lot of lobbies, a lot of lobbyists, and a lot of power,” with “very little bidding on drugs.” He said that America, meaning the federal government, is through Medicare, Medicaid, and other entitlement programs the “largest buyer of drugs in the world, and yet we don’t bid properly.”

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