BioPharma, Policy

Trump suggests, without evidence, that drugmakers are behind impeachment inquiry

Trump made the baseless remarks while speaking at an event in Florida to sign an executive order related to Medicare. His administration laid out plans to lower drug costs in a 2018 “blueprint.”

Donald Trump at a February 2017 event with CEOs, sitting next to Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier

The pharmaceutical industry is influencing the drive to have President Donald Trump impeached because of his administration’s efforts to lower drug prices, the president suggested, without providing evidence, in a speech Thursday.

“Lowering the cost of prescription drugs, taking on the pharmaceutical companies, you think that’s easy, it’s not easy,” Politico quoted Trump as saying. “It’s not easy. … I wouldn’t be surprised if the hoax didn’t come a little bit from some of the people that we’re taking on.”

“They’re very powerful, spent a lot of money, spent, I think, more money than any other group in the world, actually, in terms of lobbying and lobbying abilities,” he said in a video clip of the speech, broadcast by CNBC. “And I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the nonsense that we all have to go through – but that I have to go through – wouldn’t be surprised if it was from of these industries like pharmaceuticals.”

Trump was speaking at an event in The Villages, Florida, where he signed a Medicare-related executive order. The president has dismissed as a “hoax” a complaint filed by an unnamed whistleblower over an alleged attempt to persuade Ukraine to interfere with the 2020 presidential election during a call in July with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The scandal has sparked an impeachment inquiry against Trump.

The Trump administration released its “blueprint” to lower drug costs last year, which included proposals like allowing some personal drug importation and ending rebates collected by pharmacy benefit managers from drugmakers. However, it withdrew the rebate proposal – one of the signature components of the blueprint – in July over reported disagreement between Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and other White House officials regarding the merits of the rule. Advisers in the administration objected to the estimated cost of $180 billion over the next decade and feared it would raise Medicare premiums.

An analysis in July by consultancy Rx Savings Solutions found that more than 3,400 drugs have seen price increases in 2019, compared with about 2,900 in 2018.

Photo: Win McNamee, Getty Images