Trump just dropped a big hint to the pharmaceutical industry

Carolyn Y. Johnson, Washington Post
November 14, 2016

A single sentence in President-elect Donald Trump’s health-care platform sends a strong hint to the drug and medical device industry that they may have an easier time getting their products on the market under his administration.

“Reform the Food and Drug Administration, to put greater focus on the need of patients for new and innovative medical products,” his health plan states.

On the face of it, the bullet point may seem almost bland, but efforts to integrate patients’ preferences and encourage innovation often result in proposals aimed at speeding up the process for getting new medicines on the market by easing regulations. Critics argue that such efforts can erode standards that are in place to protect patients from drugs that don’t work and might even be harmful.

“The language … is industry code for deregulation and reducing of safety standards,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, a consumer watchdog. “Of course, the general deregulatory rhetoric from candidate Trump is a worry for us, but as applied to FDA, it would be very troubling.”

No one is sure about the precise direction of policy under the Trump administration. But the idea of faster approval of medicines and devices has been popular, meaning this may be one of Trump’s health-plan goals to gain support from both sides of the aisle. The drug industry, which had been preparing to defend its business model and pricing under a possible Hillary Clinton presidency, may now see an opportunity instead to streamline the drug-approval process, which companies have complained can be onerous, bureaucratic and a barrier to competition.[…]

But it may be unwise to read too much into the sentence, given Trump’s unpredictability — and the lack of certainty about who will define his health policy.

“I think the honest answer is nobody knows” what to expect, said Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Health Research. “Some members of Congress owe pharma a favor; we don’t know the Trump campaign is in that position, and they might not be — and that might give them a certain amount of flexibility. The Trump campaign is nothing if not iconoclastic.” […]

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