Endpoints assesses the big biopharma R&D stories of the week, with a little added commentary on what they mean for the industry.
Biopharma investors fall in love with President Trump, for now
In the lead-up to the election, it was abundantly clear that most biotech execs — a well-educated group based largely in Democratic strongholds — clearly sided with Hillary Clinton. Not that they were enthusiastic about their deeply flawed candidate. If anything, the sentiment seemed clearly driven by antipathy for Donald Trump.
Trump’s Know Nothing campaign aimed at riling blue collar workers worked perfectly, though, allowing him to rip through the Rust Belt and easily command the electoral college.
There are some immediate benefits for biopharma that lie in a Trump win. If you look at it solely through the prism of a biopharma investor, the likelihood that Congress will lower taxes to enable big corporations to repatriate cash could make a major difference in the activities of a Pfizer or Merck. Adding the prospect of advantageous legislation aimed at further speeding an already oiled approval process may not be needed, but it can’t hurt investors’ sentiment. And the president-elect’s silence on drug pricing has the hopeful keeping their fingers crossed that we’ll hear no more ideas from Trump about drug reimportation or Medicare negotiations on wholesale numbers.
So the biopharma industry will take the quick gains and the prospect of a brighter future at the expense of the bigger social losses likely from a Trump administration built on derision and scorn. The industry is a favored partner with the Republican president and a Republican-led Congress, even if there’s little love lost between many of the top players and the man about to take up residence at the White House.
Biotech rallies come and go, but some of these early implications and impressions will affect how the industry is shaped for the next four years.
Proposition 61 goes down in flames
Proposition 61 backers in California had hoped that their appeal to cap drug prices at the rate the VA paid would appeal to voters’ sense of fair play and the growing anger over drug prices. Instead, the “no” vote was backed by a well-funded counterattack that hit on a brilliant strategy: No pharma company, they told voters, would give big discounts to veterans if that became a de facto price model for discounting.
A vote for Proposition 61 became a vote against veterans. You may not agree with the theme, but you can’t deny the political savvy involved in setting up this seemingly sure thing for a hard fall in a blue state like California.
So don’t expect to see this tried anywhere else. If California rejects Prop 61, so will most if not all other states. And after Tuesday’s vote, the issue is likely dead-on-arrival in any case.
We’re not sorry to see it go. Trying to find a back door on controlling drug prices is a non-starter. The pressure on drug prices, though, isn’t going anywhere.
The recent lineup of drug pricing scandals and Congressional hearings has made big annual price increases a big issue with the public. But there has to be a better way to handle the controversy. Brent Saunders’ call for voluntary price discipline is one way. And common sense arguments to give Medicare the authority to negotiate prices will stay on the front burner of American politics.
What’s clear is that these recent votes has given the industry a big say in how this debate will be shaped over the next 4 years. It’s important not to squander that opportunity.
Endpoints News hits the #100 mark
A little more than four months into the game of daily biotech news reporting, we’re happy to take a moment to do a few high fives about publishing issue #100 of Endpoints News on election day. We’ve gathered more than 12,000 industry and investor subscribers and added hundreds of thousands in web traffic readers since our launch. The fast-growing readership positions us for a big anniversary on June 20, 2017. As always, we appreciate our readers’ feedback. We’re aiming at being the only daily news feed on biopharma that you’ll need from here on out. With your help, that’s fast becoming a reality.
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John Carroll, Editor and Co-Founder
We produce two daily newsletters designed to give you a complete picture of what's important in biopharma.