Pharma executives weigh in on possible changes under Trump

Thu Dec 1, 2016 6:35pm EST
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By Ransdell Pierson and Bill Berkrot

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Top executives from large U.S. drugmakers on Thursday discussed for the first time possible changes for the industry under President-elect Donald Trump, and issues that have damaged the reputation of their industry.

Since he was elected, Trump, who has said he wants to repeal Obamacare and reform Medicare and Medicaid, has not addressed the sharp drug price increases that dominated the Presidential campaign.

Pharma companies are breathing a sigh of relief, but Trump could be more critical of drugmakers and their price increases than the industry expects, Allergan Inc Chief Executive Brent Saunders said on Thursday.

Saunders, speaking at the annual Forbes Healthcare Summit in New York, predicted Trump could be a "more vicious tweeter" against the drug industry than his former Democratic rival Hillary Clinton had been during the campaign.

Clinton's tweets committing to a crackdown on exorbitant drug price increases weighed heavily on pharmaceutical shares since her first tweet in September 2015. Pharma shares jumped in the days after Trump's election as Clinton's proposed price controls fell off the table.

Saunders said Americans are rightly angry about price increases, and the industry needs to police itself or face government repercussions.

"I worry today that the pharmaceutical industry has a very false sense of security because of the Trump administration and a Republican-controlled Congress," Saunders said.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals CEO Len Schleifer, speaking on a panel at the Forbes conference, said the industry will be seen in a bad light as long as it maintains the common practice of taking twice yearly, often double-digit, price increases on widely-used medicines.   Continued...

Allergan CEO Brent Saunders prepares to give an interview on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) April 6, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid