President Trump Caves to PHRMA; California Legislation Left to Provide Drug Cost Relief

Earlier this week, President Donald Trump met with several CEOs from the pharmaceutical industry, and despite recent tough talk about negotiating down prescription drug prices, he took no such steps, and instead offered several corporate giveaways, including tax breaks, reduced regulatory and safety oversight, and even limits on how Medicare could bargain.

With President Trump caving to PHRMA, California now needs to step up to provide prescription drug price transparency by passing Senate Bill 17, authored by Ed Hernandez, chair of the Senate Health Committee:

With President Trump’s capitulation to PHRMA this week, it is left to the California legislature to pass prescription drug price transparency. Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, is a co-sponsor of SB 17 with the California Labor Federation. We were disappointed that President Trump, who campaigned on negotiating down prescription drug prices, only saw fit to offer corporate tax and regulatory giveaways to the PHRMA executives he met with this week. Even without federal action, California can’t allow unexplained price hikes of prescription drugs to continue to harm our health system and our families’ finances. The California legislature should not cave to the pharmaceutical industry like the President just did. The public anger and political will is ready for prescription drug price reform.

Drug companies are raising the price of prescription medication beyond the reach of most Californians. No one should have to choose between a life-saving medication, like insulin or cancer drugs, and putting food on the table for their family. Every dollar that drug companies reap in profits is a dollar that comes out of a workers’ pocket that they can’t use to pay for rent or food. California is a leader in going above and beyond the federal government to ensure affordable health care for all. We will continue that tradition by taking on drug companies’ excess profits and making sure every California has access to the medications they need.

President Trump had talked about negotiating prescription drug prices down during the campaign, and recently said in December that the drug companies were “getting away with murder… Our drug industry has been a disaster.  PHRMA has a lot of lobbies, a lot of lobbyists and a lot of power. And there’s very little bidding on drugs. We’re the largest buyer of drugs in the world, and yet we don’t bid properly, and we’re going to start bidding, and we’re going to save billions of dollars over a period of time.” In the meeting with PHRMA executives this week, he backtracked, saying “I’ll oppose anything that makes it harder for smaller, younger companies to take the risk of bringing their product to a vibrantly competitive market. That included price-fixing by the biggest dog in the market, Medicare, which is what’s happening.” Instead, he promised the industry corporate giveaways, saying “but we can increase competition and bidding wars, big time. We are going to be lowering taxes, we’re going to be getting rid of regulations that are unnecessary.”

Health Access California has long sought to address skyrocketing drug prices and provide transparency to ensure affordable and accessible prescription drugs for Californians. Health Access and the California Labor Federation co-sponsored SB 1010 (Hernandez) last year, which stalled. ​Health Access also sponsored numerous bills on prescription drug prices over the last dozen years, including 2005’s Proposition 79, for which PHRMA broke the record in spending $80 million to oppose it–a record they felt compelled to beat by spending over $120 million against last year’s Proposition 61. We look forward to the fight ahead for SB17 and other key bills.