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State of Broken Promises: Trump’s Talk is Cheap, but Prescription Drug Prices Aren’t

By February 5, 2019No Comments

Washington DC — If past is prologue, tonight President Trump will once again pay lip service to rein in the high cost of prescription drugs, just as he did in last year’s State of the Union address. If the past year proves anything, it’s that President Trump’s talk is cheap but prescription drug prices remain sky high. Brad Woodhouse, executive director of Protect Our Care, issued the following statement in anticipation of more broken promises from Trump tonight on prescription drugs:

“One year ago, Donald Trump promised the American people he would ‘substantially’ lower prescription drugs prices and threw the gauntlet down by adding emphatically ‘watch.’ We did watch, Mr. President, and a year later prescription drug prices are still sky high. The president continues to renege on his campaign promise to allow Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices, and his administration has put forward a plan on rebates that has been called a gift to Big Pharma. The only ‘substantial’ thing this President has done on health care in the last year is to engage in a relentless war on American health care administratively, in Congress, and in the courts. And if anyone believes some teleprompter-delivered promise from President Trump tonight on reducing the cost of prescription drugs, send them my way: I have some beachfront property in Arizona for sale.”


Drug Prices Continue to Soar Under Trump. A report by Senate Democrats finds that the prices of the 20 most-prescribed drugs under Medicare Part D have increased substantially over the past five years, rising 10 times faster than inflation. Another report from the Pharmacy Benefits Consultants finds that drug prices soared over the first 14 months of Trump’s presidency, during which 20 prescription drugs saw list-price increases of more than 200 percent. In 2018, there were about 1,800 prescription drug price increases according to data compiled by 46brooklyn Research. This year already, Pharma giants Pfizer and Novartis have raised prices on dozens of drug.

Trump Installed Big Pharma Executives In Key Administration Posts. President Trump installed a former Eli Lily executive, Alex Azar, as his secretary of Health and Human Services and his appointment of Scott Gottlieb at FDA was described as “music to pharma’s ears.” Other pharma lobbyists writing Trump’s health policy include senior adviser at FDA, Keagan Lenihan, who joined the administration after lobbying for the drug distribution giant McKesson, former Gilead lobbyist, Joe Grogan, who reviews health care regulations at the Office of Management and Budget, and Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy Lance Leggitt, who has lobbied for a variety of drug-industry clients.

Trump’s Proposals Always Fall Far Short Of His Promises. President Trump promised that he would allow Medicare to use its buying power to negotiate drug prices directly with suppliers, but after meeting with pharmaceutical executives early in 2017, Trump abandoned that pledge, calling it “price fixing” that would hurt “smaller, younger companies.” The planned announcement to move some drugs from Medicare Part B, in which pharmaceuticals are purchased and administered by medical providers, to Part D, will do little to restrain the cost of prescription drugs for America’s seniors and falls far short of Trump’s promises.

Republican Health Care Sabotage Makes Prescription Drugs More Expensive For Millions. The Trump Administration wants to let states sell junky short-term health plans that skirt Affordable Care Act requirements. Typical short-term policies do not cover prescription drugs or maternity care, mental health care, preventive care, and other essential benefits. Not only that, but short term plans result in higher costs for people enrolled in full coverage plans as well as soaring premiums.


Pharmaceutical Companies Have Reaped Huge Benefits From The Trump Tax Bill. The Trump tax scam means billions of dollars in tax breaks for pharmaceutical companies. An Axios study found that 21 health care companies collectively expect to gain $10 billion in tax savings during 2018 alone. Most of the tax break windfall for health care companies is going toward share buybacks, dividends, acquisitions and paying down debt. According to Axios, nine pharmaceutical companies are are spending a combined $50 billion on new share buyback programs. All of the buybacks were announced during or after passage of the tax bill. Some drug companies are also increasing dividends for shareholders, with AbbVie increasing its cash dividend by 35 percent while also announcing a new $10 billion share repurchase program.

Massive Profits And Price Increases. Pharmaceutical companies raked in more than $30 billion in profits in the third quarter of 2018, with Pfizer alone bringing in $4.1 billion — the highest of any publicly traded healthcare company. Of the 19 companies that tallied at least $1 billion of third-quarter profit, 14 were drug companies.  Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies continue to increase prices. In January 2019 alone, Pfizer and Novartis announced price increases on dozens of drugs, including increasing the cost of a breast cancer medication to $12,000 for 21 pills.  All in all, nearly 30 drugmakers are expected to raise prices in 2019.  

Soaring CEO Pay. According to an Axios study, the CEOs of 70 of the largest U.S. health care companies cumulatively have earned $9.8 billion since 2010. CEOs took home nearly 11 percent more money on average every year since 2010 — far more than the wage growth of nearly all other workers. In 2017 alone, 30 health care executives made a combined $976 million.