J&J gains an enthusiastic endorsement from President Donald Trump for their big new drug Spravato
President Donald Trump has little love for Big Pharma, but there’s at least one new drug that just hit the market which he is enamored with.
Trump, evidently, has been reading up on J&J’s new anti-depression drug, Spravato. And the president — who often likes to break out into a full-throated attack on greedy drugmakers — apparently enthused about the therapy in a meeting with officials of Veterans Affairs, which has long grappled with depression among veterans.
“Give it to anybody that has the problem, because you have people calling and our folks do a great job on the phone — but it’s a telephone,” Trump said, according to a report from Bloomberg. “You have people calling for help and if those people had that, I’m hearing like instantaneously they’re in better shape.”
Spravato is the reformulated version of ketamine, a horse tranquilizer better known in party circles as Special K. A whole slate of developers has been defeated in trying to field new drugs for depression, but the pharma giant got this one through the FDA — without meeting the agency’s gold standard on data — in part because of ketamine’s well-known quick effect in people suffering from suicidal thoughts.
According to the business news service, Trump says he’s “read really quite a bit” about this drug. And he’s ready to jump into a meeting to help negotiate a price — something the VA does but Medicare does not.
“I think they’ll be very generous with you,” Trump told Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie yesterday. “And if you like, I’ll help you to negotiate.”
Each initial treatment session can cost up to $885, says J&J, with the first month running $4,720 to $6,785. Each subsequent month can cost up to $3,540. At an annual cost the comes in just shy of $50,000 tops, some critics feel that the drug isn’t cost effective. Patients require caregivers to keep the patient under observation after therapy to make sure the cognitive side effects are controlled.
For Wilkie’s part, the VA chief says they’re already negotiating on the drug and expect to have it available throughout the system by the end of this year.
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda in the Oval Office of the White House, June 12, 2019, in Washington. AP Photo/Evan Vucci