President-elect Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump arrive at a pre-Inaugural "Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration" at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Pharma CEOs Respond to President Trump’s “Getting Away With Murder”

The World Economic Forum was held January 17-20 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, 46 years after establishment. The mission of the forum is stated as a place where the “foremost political, business, and other leader of society” come together to discuss a variety of topics. The original purpose of the forum focused on how firms throughout Europe could catch up with US management practices. Within a few years, the forum expanded and is now recognized as an international organization, “now on the next phase of its journey as the global platform for public-private cooperation.”

Leaders of the global pharmaceutical industry were asked for their perspectives on U.S. pharmaceutical pricing prospects, in light of President Trump’s “getting away with murder” drug prices rant. While there are defects, inefficiencies, and roadblocks throughout the drug development process, this is not the sole fault of the pharmaceutical industry. The following are comments from Reuters interviews with CEOs in attendance at WEF in Davos:

JOE JIMENEZ, NOVARTIS
“The new administration has been pretty vocal about supporting innovation. They understand that when you spend money on research and you develop intellectual property there needs to be some level of return for that investment. I believe, based on who the president-elect has put in place around him, that there is a clear understanding of investment and return on investment.”

KEN FRAZIER, MERCK & CO
“Pricing will remain a challenging issue for those of us who are in the research-based pharmaceutical industry, as well as a challenge for the overall healthcare system in terms of what it can afford.”
“The tweets will be what they will be, but the subject matter of the tweets has been a challenge before the election and I think it will remain a challenge after the election.”

ANDREW WITTY, GLAXOSMITHKLINE
“Clearly, the industry has an obligation to deliver value-creating innovation and it needs to price it at a level that is deemed to be acceptable.”
“Industry has to price in an empathetic way. Just because you can demonstrate value doesn’t mean it is affordable.”

SEVERIN SCHWAN, ROCHE
“If you provide true medical differentiation coupled with a strong intellectual property position, I think the U.S. will continue to reward this kind of innovation. If you don’t offer that then, frankly, I think it is the right thing that prices should come down.”

OLIVIER BRANDICOURT, SANOFI
“It’s very difficult to understand what all those comments and tweets will end up being.”
“It’s going to probably be very difficult to issue legislation on drug pricing.”

FLEMMING ORNSKOV, SHIRE
“I think we are in good position to prove the value of our products but, of course, there will be challenges.”

The government and political correctness labyrinths companies must maneuver through waste time and money. Yes, there is corruption in a few examples of crony capitalism, and not acceptable (think Mylan, Valeant, and Mallinckrodt). The perception of widespread Pharma greed is wrong. Overall, medical breakthroughs are made via private enterprises, not the government.

The Trump Administration needs an education on the number of new molecular entities (NMEs) required to succeed with one viable, commercial product; the timing of a patent; and the ROI required in order to continue innovation. Example, with today’s regulations and suppression of innovation, aspirin would not be an approved candidate NME. Imagine what we are missing……..

Plus, society requires more personal responsibility. A pill does not solve all, know what you’re about to ingest (food and otherwise), “chemical-free” is BS (EVERYTHING is a chemical!!), and organic is purest off an Amish or Mennonite farm, IMHO.

This summary scratches the surface of the complexities. I pray for knowledge and guidance for the new administration.

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Tara Baney

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