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Trump meets with pharmaceutical industry executives

Drug prices, the approval process, and manufacturing jobs were the focus

by Lisa M. Jarvis
February 1, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 6

A photo of President Trump meeting with drug industry executives.
Credit: Ron Sachs/SIPA/Newscom
President Trump meeting last week with drug industry executives.

In a meeting with pharmaceutical executives last week, President Donald J. Trump said his Administration will speed up drug approvals and significantly cut regulations. The sit-down included the head of the main drug industry trade group, Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), and executives from Amgen, Celgene, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly & Co., Merck & Co., and Novartis.

Much of the public portion of the event focused on the time it takes to get a new drug onto the market.

Trump spoke about a theoretical terminal patient being denied access to experimental drugs. “They say the patient within four weeks will be dead, and they say, ‘Well, we still can’t approve the drug,’ ” Trump told the pharma executives. “We don’t know whether the drug works or doesn’t work, but we can’t approve the drug because we don’t want to hurt the patient.”

He proposed streamlining the process “so that if it works, you can actually get it approved instead of waiting for many, many years.”

However, the notion that drugs should be approved without sufficient data has some industry experts concerned about the impact on patients.

“The reason that drugs can take years to be evaluated is because we are gaining evidence on their efficacy and safety,” says Aaron Kesselheim, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School. “Without that evidence, we wouldn’t know how to use these drugs.”

In his public comments at the meeting, Trump also focused on the high cost of medicines and the need to increase drug industry jobs domestically. “We have to get lower prices, we have to get even better innovation … and I want you to manufacture in the U.S.,” he told the executives.

PhRMA CEO Steve Ubl released a statement noting that trade, tax, regulatory, and job creation policies were discussed in the private portion of the meeting. “We believe if these policies are enacted, it will translate to up to 350,000 new jobs over the next 10 years,”



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