What Went Down in Trump's Meeting With Biotech Execs From Amgen, Celgene and Merck & Co.

What Went Down in Trump's Meeting With Biotech Execs From Amgen, Celgene and Merck & Co. January 31, 2017
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

WASHINGTON – During a meeting with the heads of several pharmaceutical companies earlier today, President Donald Trump outlined plans to “streamline” the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by cutting regulations to provide new products a quicker route to markets.

While that might seem like promising news to the industry heads, Trump also criticized the prices of drugs. According to multiple media reports, Trump called drug prices astronomical and said prices have to come down. Trump said U.S. drug companies have produced “extraordinary results” for the country, but said the price of many of the drugs are detrimental to the people.

Trump said competition was the key to lowering drug prices and said he would oppose regulations that “makes it harder for smaller, younger companies to take the risk of bringing their product to a vibrantly competitive market.” Trump said he would oppose “price fixing by the biggest dog in the market, Medicare.”

“What I want is we need to get lower prices. We have to get even better innovation and I want you to move your companies back to the United States. And I want you to manufacture in the United States,” Trump said, according to transcripts.

He said he wants to quicken the FDA approval process for new drugs and promised to name a new head of the FDA, a “fantastic person” soon. During the meeting, Trump said one thing about the FDA that has always bothered him was the slowness to approve new drugs. He gave an anecdote about a patient who could benefit from an experimental drug, but was unable to take it because it had not been approved. He said without access to that drug the patient would die.

Additionally, Trump said he wanted to “end global freeloading” and ensure that foreign countries “pay their fair share” for U.S.-manufactured drugs as a way to increase international competition. Trump also re-expressed his desire to lower the corporate tax rate as part of an effort to bring companies back to the United States. That could likely open the door to many companies bringing funds kept in offshore accounts back to the country to spur innovation and M&A activity.

Unlike his comments from a Jan. 12 press conference when he lambasted the industry over pricing, pharma leaders in attendance, including the chief executives of Novartis , Amgen , Celgene , Merck & Co. and Eli Lilly , reacted positively to this morning’s meeting, particularly to Trump’s plan for tax regulations. Merck’s Ken Frazier told reporters the industry was ready to work with Trump “to create a system that’s good for innovation, that’s good for jobs,” Bloomberg reported.

Stephen J. Ubl, chief executive officer of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), took to Twitter after the meeting, sharing his thoughts of the meeting with the president, which he called positive and productive. In a series of tweets, Ubl said Trump’s agenda for taxes, trade and regulations could create 350,000 American jobs in the biopharma industry over the next 10 years. He also tweeted PhRMA takes drug pricing concerns seriously and intends to work with the administration and Congress on market-based reforms to improve access to drugs and greater affordability.

Not only were industry leaders reacting positively to the meeting with Trump, investors have also responded favorably, with stock prices climbing. The Nasdaq Biotechnology Index is up more than 1 percent this afternoon.

Back to news