Letter: Drug industry needs major shakeup

Editor of the Reformer:

When a Speech About Controlling Drug Prices Sends Drug Stocks Higher . On Friday, May 11, Trump finally gave his "lowering drug costs" speech. It was, he claimed, the start of "the most sweeping action in history to lower the price of prescription drugs." It was tough on drug makers, tough on middlemen, tough on foreign governments. It promised protection of American people, American patients, American consumers, American citizens. His administration was now "putting American patients first." If only words were actions. The supposedly big speech was so frightening to the drug industry that it actually raised the value of drug maker stocks. Think about that. The big speech that was going to get those drug making rascals under control once and for all was treated by investors as a boon to those very rascals. And that was part of a pattern. Trump harped on the evils of middlemen, specifically mentioning pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and the stock prices of two of the major PBMs, Express Scripts and CVS, went up. Because, according to the online outlet Axios, the speech actually reassured the industry and investors that there will not be "a major shake-up." Rather than trying to demonize foreign countries which have the good sense to negotiate drug prices at the national level, Trump could have announced that we would do the same, at least for Medicare. But no, the administration had taken that off the table before the speech. It must be too "tough" to take on corporations with that kind of lobbying power. Investors are right: there will be no major shake-up, no real effort to "put American patients first." And that's a shame, because we need a major shake-up in the drug industry and the PBMs. We need a real health care "system," in fact, not a hodgepodge of commercial enterprises working every angle for their own interests. We need access to affordable care, including affordable medicines. What we're getting is the same old bait and switch, the age old "talk tough in public and scratch each others' backs behind closed doors." The reason the drug industry spends so much on lobbying is that it works. The reason the drug industry spends more on advertising than on developing new drugs is that it works. What doesn't work is our health care system-in-name-only.

Lee Russ

Bennington, May 11


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