Trump’s “scrambling” for drug price controls

January 27, 2020
If you needed a reminder of the importance of washing your hands during flu season, researchers say it's one of the best things you can do right now to protect yourself against the Wuhan coronavirus, reports the New York Times. (And yes, we'll be first in line to get…
If you needed a reminder of the importance of washing your hands during flu season, researchers say it's one of the best things you can do right now to protect yourself against the Wuhan coronavirus, reports the New York Times. (And yes, we'll be first in line to get a vaccine when one of our industry's innovators creates it.) 

The virus isn't the only bad news today: Trump's reigniting plans for an international price index for drugs, and corporations are increasingly concerned about the impact of climate change on their businesses and the global economy. The good news? The biotech sector is poised to play a big role, in stopping both a global epidemic and a climate crisis.

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Trump’s “scrambling” for drug price controls

The Trump administration is “scrambling” to finalize an international price index for prescription drugs ahead of the State of the Union on February 4th, reports POLITICO—despite the fact Trump’s own economic advisers said a similar proposal would make us miss out on as many as 100 new cures.

Some context: In 2018, the administration proposed a “new Medicare model” to “bring down drug prices and cut down on foreign freeriding”—yeah, we think they meant “freeloading”—by setting drug prices based on other countries pay.

And now: POTUS reportedly had an “outburst” at HHS Secretary Alex Azar “over not getting credit for tackling drug costs,” explains POLITICO, so they’re trying to finalize the plan—though others in the White House wanted to keep the plan “for leverage” as Congress works on their own drug pricing bills.

If the administration does issue the rule, it “could give Trump a talking point for the State of the Union but would almost certainly trigger immediate legal challenges from the drug industry, which argues the plan exceeds the authority Congress gave to test new payment systems when it passed Obamacare,” says POLITICO.

And not only that: An international price index will not only chill investment in the industry and jeopardize new cures in the pipeline—something already happening due to the mere specter of price controls—but also won’t help patients better afford their medicines at the pharmacy counter because it doesn’t address the real drivers of health care costs, like hospital and physician services

Jim’s Judgment: “Contrary to the president’s repeated promises to end ‘foreign free-loading,’ this proposal embraces it and exacerbates its harmful effects. By adopting foreign price controls on the very small number of innovative medicines that make it to market, this proposal will severely chill investment in new cures and therapies for America’s seniors,” said BIO CEO Jim Greenwood.  


More Health Care News: 

The Washington Post: What must be done to head off the coronavirus threat
Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb says we need more information-sharing, especially by China, and collaboration to determine the severity of the threat.


The new business climate is all about the climate

The key takeaway from Davos? Businesses need to take climate change seriously—and it’s the top threat for businesses going into the new decade, reports Axios.

Luckily, one industry is poised to play a big role: biotech.

The big picture: Session after session at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos cautioned governments and businesses to take climate change seriously—with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Bank for International Settlements (BIS)releasing new reports warning the changing climate could lead to disruption and unrest that could stymie economic growth and even cause the next financial crisis.

And corporations need to take action: According to an analysis of more than six million tweets, “climate change” and “plant/lab-based food” generated the most mentions among corporate stakeholders, reports Axios, meaning they're the top two issues corporations need to engage on right now.


Image via Axios/HLG

So, what can we do? It's critically important we continue to invest in biotech, from researching and developing renewable biofuels—which the UN says will be one of the most important ways to reduce emissions—and ensuring we can have enough trees to suck up the carbon, to making agriculture more sustainable and finding environmentally friendly alternatives to plastic. 

Biotech innovation may be one of the most important tools in stopping climate change—and, looking at the new reports, a financial crisis for business and the global economy.

This is why we need policy that supports these innovations—in particular, low-carbon fuel initiatives to support the development and growth of renewable energy, and policies that don't put unnecessarily burdensome regulations on gene editing, to name just two.

Stephanie’s Sage Words: “Every day I work with many of the synbio companies at the forefront of innovation. I’m inspired by the promise of the technology. But we can’t wait while the effects of climate change intensify. Tools like synthetic biology should be viewed as empowering the natural world, not hindering it,” – Stephanie Batchelor, BIO’s VP of Industrial & Environment Section

BIO Beltway Report

President Trump’s Monday: Meetings with the Prime Minister of Israel, lunch with the veep, and swearing in Jovita Carranza as head of the Small Business Administration. Looking ahead, he’s expected to sign the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) on Wednesday, though POLITICO says there’s still a lot of work to be done by all parties.

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: The House and Senate are in session. The impeachment trial continues, with President Trump’s lawyers beginning his defense.

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