Trump pushes drugmakers for lower prices, more U.S. production

Tue Jan 31, 2017 9:41pm EST
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By Roberta Rampton and Deena Beasley

WASHINGTON/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump in a meeting on Tuesday with pharmaceutical executives called on them to manufacture more of their drugs in the United States and cut prices, while vowing to speed approval of new medicines and ease regulation.

Trump told them the government was paying "astronomical" prices for medicines in its health programs for older, disabled and poor people and said he would soon appoint a new U.S. Food and Drug Administration leader.

"We’re going to streamline the FDA," Trump said in a statement, referring to the regulatory agency responsible for vetting that new drugs are safe and effective.

The meeting between Trump and the pharmaceutical executives signaled a defusing of tensions that have kept drug stock prices in check since the presidential election. Shares of most of the group rallied on Tuesday following the meeting, even as the broader stock market slid.

“Trump is a populist above all else, and having these (drug) prices skyrocket, he’s commented that under his administration, this is not going to happen,” said market strategist Quincy Crosby of Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey.

She said Trump was playing a balancing act between controlling prices and loosening regulations. "I don’t think the majority of Americans want all regulations lifted from drug makers.”

Attending the meeting were top executives at Merck & Co Inc, Johnson &, Celgene Corp, Eli Lilly & Co, Amgen Inc and Switzerland's Novartis AG <NOV N.S> as well as the head of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) lobbying group.

According to a transcript of the televised portion of the meeting, Amgen Chief Executive Officer Robert Brad way promised to add 1,600 U.S. jobs at his California-based biotechnology company this year.   Continued...

U.S. President Donald Trump talks with Kenneth Frazier (L) CEO of Merck as Robert Hugin (2nd R) Executive Chairman of Celgene and Robert Bradway (R) CEO of Amgen look on during a meeting with Pharma industry representatives at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 31, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas