Trump Lays Out Biotech, Pharma Agenda

Trump promises to deregulate the FDA.

Softening his portrayal of the pharmaceutical industry as motivated mostly by greed, President Donald Trump today met with a group of top biotech and pharma executives (photo) and had kinder things to say.

Trump said the companies “are doing fantastic.”

But he did not fully back away from his earlier pronouncement that Medicare drugs are too expensive. He called the program “the biggest dog in the market” and appeared to allude to the fact that there is no competitive bidding for Medicare drug contracts as 'price fixing.'”

The good news for the industry, Trump said, is that his administration plans to “streamline the FDA” by removing or changing regulations and procedures in an effort to get new products to market more quickly.

“The US drug companies have produced extraordinary results for our country, but the pricing has been astronomical for our country,” Trump said at the meeting. “New drugs have led to longer, healthier lives — we all know that — but we have to do better accelerating cures. We’re forced and focused on accelerating FDA approvals. We’re gonna get the approval process much faster.”

He called on pharma and biotech to “get your companies back here,” and said that he would help make that a more attractive option by deregulation, particularly as it applies to the process of building new plants.

Trump also said that other nations are taking advantage of US companies.

"We're going to be ending global freeloading. Foreign price controls reduce the resources of American drug companies to finance drug and R&D innovation. I think you people know that very well. Very unfair to this country," he said.

Critics were quick to respond arguing that major deregulation of the FDA approvals process risks eroding the FDA’s prescription drug safety and effectiveness standards, potentially rendering them as loose as those for the nutritional supplements market. Such changes could put consumers at risk.

But several pharma executives who attended the meeting said they liked what they heard. Kenneth Frazier, chief executive of Merck, said his take-away from the meeting was that "What helps our companies helps create jobs." Speaking at a brief meeting with reporters after the meeting he added that his company is concerned about the administration's restrictions on immigration.

"We have to get the best scientists from around the world, so this is very important to us," Frazier said.

Trump vowed that deregulation at the FDA would cut the cost of bringing drugs to market.

"I read where it sometimes take $2.5 billion on average to come up with a new product. Fifteen years, $2.5 billion to come up with a new product where there is not even a safety problem--that's crazy," he said.

Trump's remarks at the meeting were reported by multiple news sites.