During the 2016 presidential campaign, one candidate famously claimed that drug companies were “getting away with murder”—using armies of lobbyists to influence Congress and artificially inflating drug prices.
But a lot can change in two years. That candidate was Donald Trump, who aggravated fellow Republicans on the trail with his forceful and blunt criticism of the pharmaceutical industry. Taking a page from the Democrats, he embraced a plan to allow Medicare to negotiate directly with drug manufacturers, promising that such a scheme could save hundreds of millions of dollars and reduce drug prices. When he was asked why the plan, which has circulated around Capitol Hill for about 15 years, hadn’t yet passed Congress, Trump said without reservation that it was all drug companies’ fault.
The industry is now having the last laugh. In a speech Friday on drug pricing, President Trump completed his 180-degree turn on Candidate Trump’s promises. The White House’s new plan, as outlined, does seek to address high prescription-drug costs. “We will not rest until this job of unfair pricing is a total victory,” Trump said. But it doesn’t directly challenge the pharmaceutical industry and the direct role it plays in setting prices. Indeed, the new policy largely meets the goals of big pharma, signaling an ever-tightening bond between Trump and drug manufacturers.