The pattern was set early in the first week of the Trump Administration: bring in a group of industry executives, praise their efforts to add to the US economy, warn them to do more to generate jobs within US borders, and send them on their way. The treatment has been performed for auto executives, high-tech industries and on Jan. 31, the biopharma industry got its turn. Present were top execs from Merck, J&J, Eli Lilly, Celgene, Amgen and (oddly, since its HQ is in Switzerland) Novartis, as well as Steve Ubl, CEO of PhRMA.
Despite President Trump’s call to action (“I want you to manufacture in the United States,” he said, according to press reports), employment in biopharma has not been a hot-button issue for the industry for several years; jobs have been growing at a roughly 5% annual clip since the Great Recession. PhRMA has published studies that the industry employed 854,000 in 2014 (making some generous assumptions about R&D employment, among other things), and PhRMA’s Ubl said that if Trump’s “stronger” trade agreements, reformed tax code and pruning of “outdated” regulations were carried out, the industry could create up to 350,000 jobs in the next 10 years.
On the flip side, President Trump also made statements about doing something about “astronomical” drug prices, but other than garbling Medicare’s role in drug pricing (a claim of “price fixing” under Medicare had to be walked back by a spokesperson), no actual approach was proposed. Little was mentioned about the pharma industry’s support of the Affordable Care Act in its early days—or the criticism the industry received for (in the view of some at the time) supporting increased healthcare spending which would increase pharmaceutical sales.