We can only imagine how the Trump administration’s internal conversation about lowering the price of pharmaceuticals has been going.
President Trump campaigned on the issue and has repeatedly made bold promises to bring down the price of drugs since taking office. Trump chose a solid issue to stump on. Polls show that voters are furious about the cost of medicine and want lower prices to be a top priority in Washington.
Fulfilling these promises is another story. As Trump’s aides may have explained to him, sparking meaningful decreases in drug costs within a short period of time — say, the first few years of a presidential administration — would require government intervention in the pharmaceutical market and supply chain. Lawmakers may need to pass sweeping legislation, and new regulations are something that most Republicans, the health lobby and Trump himself generally oppose.
So, Trump tapped Alex Azar, a former Bush administration official who spent several years working as a top pharmaceutical executive, to come up with a plan. After weeks of delay and with much fanfare, Trump and Azar finally released a blueprint for lowering drug costs in May. Trump began making bold claims that drug makers would lower their prices within weeks in response.
It never happened. Biotech and pharmaceutical stock prices jumped after the blueprint was released because investors saw little long-term threat to their profit margins. By late June and early July, drug companies were once again raising prices for hundreds of drugs, just as they do every year.
So, predictably, Trump lashed out on Twitter earlier this week, saying Pfizer “and others” should be “ashamed” for raising drug prices “for no reason.” Then he got the company’s CEO on the phone. Pfizer caved and agreed to delay price hikes on 100 drugs until the blueprint “goes into effect” or the end of the year — whichever comes sooner. This would give the president “an opportunity to work on his…