Which way for Trump and progressives on pharmaceutical reform?

By Adam Gaffney, M.D.
The Hill, Nov. 16, 2016

Last January, to the astonishment of many, Donald Trump asserted that he favored allowing Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies over drug prices, a longstanding progressive policy that was also supported by the Democratic candidates. “We don't do it. Why? Because of the drug companies,” Trump said.

Will he pursue such a populist course on drug prices once in office? It seemed unlikely then. But now, it seems pretty clear that the promise was a bait-and-switch: his new website does not include a word about Medicare drug negotiations.

Instead it calls for “[r]eform[ing] the Food and Drug Administration [FDA], to put greater focus on the need of patients for new and innovative medical products,” code words for a pro-Pharma agenda that would weaken the FDA standards for drug approval.

A similar pro-industry agenda was embodied in the 21st Century Cure Act that was passed by the House last year. As an article in the New England Journal of Medicine described, that act would “lead to the approval of drugs and devices that are less safe or effective than existing criteria would permit,” producing a windfall for the drug industry but greatly increasing the likelihood that unsafe medications would gain approval.

Drug company stock prices rocketed the day after Trump’s election, reflecting investors newfound confidence in the industry’s prospects under his presidency.

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