President Donald Trump has demanded that pharmaceutical companies cut drug prices in return for fewer regulations. As a matter of economics, this plan makes no sense.
Politically, however, it might just work. But traditional critics of the industry should think long and hard about whether going along with the president out of fear of his wrath is a cause for celebration. Pharmaceutical firms should also consider the long-term dangers of aligning themselves too closely with the new president and his volatile brand of policy making.
When blockbuster drugs hit the market, they make big news and big profits. But for every blockbuster drug launched, there are an awful lot of disappointments.
A good example is Vertex’s launch of the Hepatitis C drug Incivek. It was extremely successful in its first year on the market and heralded in a new era of Hepatitis C therapies. However, that meant competition. It wasn’t too long before newer and better treatments like Gilead’s Sovaldi and AbbVie’s Viekira Pak essentially replaced it in the market. Last spring, Vertex announced that not only is it no longer investing in research or developing new Hepatitis C drugs, it was withdrawing Incivek from the market.
Even when we see tremendous therapeutic progress with a drug potentially worth billions, there is the risk that it will be overtaken by the next generation of drugs. There is no sure thing.
Recently MIT Sloan alumna Judy Lewent was inducted into the Financial Executives International Hall of Fame. A former executive vice president and chief financial officer of Merck, Lewent was recognized for her performance, leadership and integrity as a financial professional who has made significant contributions to the betterment of her organization and profession. The following is an excerpt of her remarks at the event:
“It is a momentous time for finance. As the global economy teeters on the brink, much of the world stands by holding its collective breath. This is, no doubt, a time of great anxiety. That anxiety is shared, not just by 50% of the public or 75% or even 99%. Everyone shares it.
As the U.S. and Europe teeter on the edge of a devastating double-dip recession, India’s economic boom—once considered a bright spot in an otherwise bleak global financial landscape—is also showing signs of weakness.
The International Monetary Fund recently cut its growth projection for India, warning that the country was perilously close to double-digit inflation. (In the past fiscal year, India’s economy grew 8.5%; before the financial crisis, its growth exceeded 9% for three straight years.) The IMF cited “a drag from renewed global uncertainty” as the main reason for the revision, but that is letting India off easy.