A Trump Presidency Could Cure Our Pharma Affliction - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
A Trump Presidency Could Cure Our Pharma Affliction

Early this year, Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump served notice to the pharmaceutical industry that their days of vacuuming up taxpayer money for nothing were at an end. Trump did this by backing a policy that has, for years, been verboten in GOP policy circles: the idea that the federal government should renegotiate drug prices down through the Medicare program.

Coming from a more conventional candidate, there are good reasons that conservatives might find this particular cure worse than the illness. In Trump’s case, however, that debate seems unnecessary. As with everything Trump does, this particular bit of policy heresy seems more like a negotiating tactic than a serious proposal, since Trump’s actual healthcare plan does not mention it, and to all appearances he has dropped the idea completely.

Even so, judged as a pure negotiation move, Trump’s embrace of drug renegotiation sends a powerful signal: if Trump’s elected, there’s a new sheriff in town. President Obama’s style of dealing with Big Pharma, which has all the forcefulness of a half-dead dog feebly scratching at a bloated tick, will finally come to an end.

Such a shift in tactics is overdue and welcome. The Obama administration’s few successful fights with pharma are vastly overshadowed by its willingness to throw good money after bad when dealing with the industry. Anyone who doubts that need only look at the coziness between drug companies and the White House over Obamacare.

And even when the Obama administration does try to fight pharma, the results are comically weak. For example, some pharmaceutical companies are now trying to avoid paying U.S. taxes altogether at the same time they drain the treasury through research and development subsidies, exorbitant Medicare drug prices, and God knows what else. The White House understandably has a problem with this, as its current spat with Pfizer shows. Yet show me a person who believes the administration will actually succeed in doing anything about it, rather than simply throwing out a bunch of empty moral posturing to comfort its moonbat base, and I’ll show you an incorrigible optimist.

We need someone who’s willing to put everything on the table, and then make the drug industry fight to get what it wants. As of now, Trump looks like just the man for that job.

And fortunately, even without the nuclear option of Medicare negotiation, there is a whole host of tactics that a skilled negotiator like Trump could use to squeeze the industry. At least one of those tactics has precedent in a Republican administration that Trump himself admired, in fact.

I’m talking about the 340B program, which became law under President George H.W. Bush. The program requires any pharmaceutical company that wants to sell its drugs to Medicaid and Medicare Part B patients to provide those drugs at a reduced price to hospitals that cater to poor or underserved populations. The industry has, so far without success, tried to get the program removed with a series of complaints made on entirely specious grounds.

And if you step back from the program’s specifics, it makes a lot of sense why: because 340B manages to negotiate with pharma arguably more effectively than direct negotiation over drug prices. Whereas direct negotiation would involve haggling over costs, 340B actively threatens to cut the drug industry off from the money altogether unless it complies — a tactic that Donald Trump himself has praised in other contexts as “the willingness to walk away.”

Armed with policy levers like this, and with no crony capitalist ties to the industry, Trump could easily force Big Pharma to take steps to reform its price gouging, tax guzzling ways.

And if he accomplishes that, it’s no stretch at all to imagine that Trump might not merely make good on his promise to undo Obamacare: He might also get rid of the genuine issues that Democrats cynically used to justify the program in the first place.

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