The Trump Administration and the War on Big Pharma

For years, the price of health care has been rising. Along with that, the price of drugs has also been going up. This places people who need medications at a severe disadvantage. Not very many people can afford drugs without any help and help has been slowly going away. The problem has been ignored by most people and things are becoming critical.

The Big Pharma companies do not have the best interests of patients at heart. What they care about is getting a profit through whatever means are necessary. To shut the companies down, there needs to be big talk and big action. Currently in office, President Donald Trump can definitely talk big. He shuts his opponents down with the harshest of words, and he speaks as if there are no consequences, which he has not yet faced. The issue is Trump and big action.

During his campaign and in the time since the election, President Trump has been talking about lowering the cost of drugs. He has made it one of his many promises, and it is a promise that every United States citizen would like him to fulfill, no matter the difference in political ideology. On July 9, 2018, Trump did what he does best – he tweeted.

Drug company Pfizer (and unspecified others) had raised drug prices. Trump tweeted that they were just using the poor and defenseless, while allowing much fairer prices in Europe. In response to a slight stock fall, Pfizer lowered the prices back down. This may seem like a wonderful example of a person of power finally standing up to Big Pharma, but all it is, is presidential bullying that sublimes into nothingness.

One of the problems with drug prices lies within drug patent laws. The laws, as currently written, allow Big Pharma companies to have at least partial monopolies on drugs, which means they can do basically what they please with the prices. Public funding for drugs also helps keep the prices high because there is such a high demand for prescription medication. Regulations on prescription drugs are simply too tight.

Senator Bernie Sanders, who is normally left-leaning when it comes to economics responded to Trump’s Pfizer tweet. Sanders informed the president that companies other than Pfizer are allowed to indiscriminately raise drug prices and that, if Trump truly wants to help, he should encourage Congress to pass a bill allowing Medicare to negotiate prices and free drug trade from countries that produce safe, cheaper drugs.

While allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices is questionable, there are many estimates that opening drug trade to the free-market would reduce drug prices significantly. It would bring in cheaper drugs from other countries, which would put a strain on Big Pharma companies. The Big Pharma companies would likely respond by lowering their prices to an equally competitive rate. But loosening patent laws and opening American drugs to free trade take big action.

May 2018 was another tumultuous month for President Trump and the Big Pharma companies. During that month, Trump announced a plan to handle the high drug prices. It seemed as if he was going to be taking big action against Big Pharma, and Trump referred to it as the most widespread plan ever.

Trump said that the plan would aim at the people in Big Pharma who were becoming extremely rich at the expensive of defenseless people and the corrupt system in general. His announcement made it sound like the plan Big Pharma companies had been waiting for since the 2016 campaign. Until this announcement, it had appeared as if Trump had given up on his lowered drug price promise.

At its core though, the plan was meaningless. It was seemingly just more big talk. The plan ultimately just begged Big Pharma companies to lower drug prices without holding them accountable, so they were left with no real incentive to do such a thing. Trump also blamed foreign countries for allowing the United States’ cheap drugs to be imported, which took responsibility off of Big Pharma’s shoulders.

The only real way to know the effects of the plan is to see how Big Pharma responded. Those Big Pharma companies did respond. During the month the plan was announced, Bayer increased the price on two cancer drugs and Novartis, in June, raised prices on four already expensive treatments. In July, the Pfizer issue occurred.

During the month of June and the first two days of July, there were a total of 104 drug price increases. The only accountability given has been Trump’s tweet to Pfizer, which did cause the price of Pfizer’s drugs to decrease slightly. The decrease is not expected to last very long. Big Pharma does not appear to take the Trump Administration seriously at all, and there is no perceivable threat coming from the administration, except for big talk.

Trump and the Republicans are clearly failing at lowering drug prices, which leaves it open for the grab. The Democratic Party is hoping Trump’s failure will help them prosper. Democrats are using the drug prices a lot in their push for the 2018 mid-term elections.

A part of what the Democrats are still proposing and what Trump borrowed from them is the idea of Medicare negotiating drug prices. In 2016, two democratic representatives introduced the idea, hoping for a promised endorsement from the president. They never got the endorsement. Of course, price negotiation is not the only proposal. Ideas like price thresholds and free market drug trade can also be found within the Democratic Party.

While drug prices continue to rise to increasingly unaffordable rates, the Trump Administration has taken a weak stance on the issue. Despite promising to fix the problem, Trump has only brought big talk to the table. Big talk brings no consequence, so Big Pharma feels no need to stop increases. As Trump continues to fail at fixing the issue, Big Pharma will be allowed to continue waging war on the wallets and health of the American people.