Trump Decries Pfizer Over Second Round of Price Increases for Prescriptions

Trump_Editorial_Joseph Sohm

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President Donald Trump used the power of his Twitter feed to call out and condemn pharma giant Pfizer after that company increased the price of a number of its prescription medications by nearly 10 percent.

On Monday Trump said that Pfizer “should be ashamed” that it increased the price of its medications “for no reason.” Trump also lumped in other companies that have increased the price of prescriptions into his condemnation, although he did not specify which ones.

Last week BioSpace reported that Pfizer increased the price of 40 of its most popularly-prescribed medications by nearly 10 percent. Cancer treatment Xalkori, depression drug Zoloft and cholesterol drug Lipitor all saw price increases of 9.4 percent. The anti-smoking drug Chantix saw a price increase of 7 percent.  

Trump bellowed that pharma companies are “taking advantage of the poor & others unable to defend themselves,” presumably meaning having little recourse in addressing the price increase. The president also continued with a favorite point that the pharma companies sell their products at lower prices in Europe than in the United States. In his tweet, Trump said Europeans (and in other foreign markets) pay “bargain basement prices.” He said his administration will respond, although what kind of response was not addressed.

This is not the first time that Trump has raised questions about the pricing of prescription medications. It’s been a political hot button for years and one that Trump has used repeatedly in his populist message. Perhaps most famously, prior to his being sworn in as president, Trump said that pharmaceutical companies are “getting away with murder” when it comes to the prices the companies charge for medication.

Trump has made pledges before to address the pricing of pharmaceutical treatments. When the Right-to-Try legislation was passed into law, the president predicted that prices would fall – they didn’t. Earlier this year Trump also outlined a plan to reform drug pricing in a plan called “American Patients First.” Prior to the announcement of his plan, Trump had said: “you’ll be seeing drug prices falling very substantially in the not-too-distant future, and it’s going to be beautiful.” However, that has yet to happen. Before releasing the plan there were allusions to sweeping reforms that would lead to the fall of drug prices. Trump’s plan, when revealed in May, didn’t contain hard approaches to address pricing. Instead, the proposal talked about advertising costs associated with prescription medications and a plan to allow pharmacists latitude to talk to patients about less-expensive alternatives to some prescriptions.

Drug manufacturers have argued that they do not profit much from the increase in prices due to the discounts and rebates offered to drug benefits managers. Some companies have provided greater transparency in its pricing models. Last year Merck pulled back the curtain on its pricing practices in the United States by publishing a “Pricing Action Transparency Report” for 2016. In its disclosure, Merck noted that the pricing takes into account rebates, discounts and returns.

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