Drug Stocks Plunge as Trump Threatens to Force Price Bidding

Commentary, News, Stocks
  • ‘We’re going to save billions,’ Trump says of bidding plans
  • Biotech index drops 2.6%, large drugmaker stocks down 1.7%

Pharmaceutical and biotech stocks plummeted Wednesday as President-elect Donald Trump said he’d force the industry to bid for government business in order to save the government billions of dollars.

“They are getting away with murder. Pharma has a lot of lobbyists and a lot of power and there is very little bidding,” Trump said at a press conference in New York. “We’re the largest buyer of drugs in the world and yet we don’t bid properly and we’re going to save billions of dollars.”

The industry is the latest victim to a president who has made a habit of negotiating with industries via Twitter. The Nasdaq Biotechnology Index fell 2.6 percent at 11:28 a.m. in New York, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 Pharmaceuticals, Biotechnology & Life Sciences Index was down 1.7 percent.

The drug industry had been betting that Trump would be good for business — drug and biotech stocks were up since his election — but it now appears he may take up the banner Democrats carried during the campaign and lock onto drug prices as a populist issue that hits many Americans’ wallets.

Trump will also find allies in Democrats. They’ve supported having Medicare, which covers the elderly and disabled, negotiate prices directly on behalf of patients, while such a program has been a top priority for the drug lobby in Washington to defend against. Medicare is the biggest purchaser of drugs and medical services in the country.

The U.S. doesn’t directly regulate medicine prices, unlike much of the rest of the globe. President Barack Obama has proposed letting the U.S. Medicare program negotiate prices for biologics and other expensive drugs. The government is specifically prohibited from negotiating prices with drugmakers in Medicare’s drug benefit program.

Senate Democrats

The Senate plans an early test of support for such an idea this week. The chamber will likely vote on an amendment to the 2017 budget resolution backing the government’s ability to negotiate drug prices on behalf of Medicare. The amendment, proposed by Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, is a test effort meant to see where senators stand on the issue.

During his press conference, Trump also promised to get drugmakers — many of which have relocated their legal addresses abroad to save on taxes — to return to the U.S.

“Our drug industry has been disastrous, they’re leaving left and right,” Trump said. “They supply our drugs but they don’t make them here, to a large extent.”

Spokesmen for the drug and biotech lobbies in Washington, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Trump didn’t provide specifics on his call for drug-price negotiations. During the campaign, he backed allowing drug-price negotiations by the U.S. Medicare program for the elderly, and also supported the idea of letting consumers re-import drugs from abroad. After the election, he told Time Magazine “I’m going to bring down drug prices.”

“I don’t like what’s happened with drug prices,” he said.

Read this article in its original format at Bloomberg.com


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