December 1, 2016 / 9:06 PM / 3 years ago

Pharma execs weigh in on possible changes under Trump

(Reuters) - The top executives at two of the largest U.S. drugmakers weighed in on Thursday for the first time on possible changes for the industry next year under U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.

Since he was elected, Trump, who has said he wants to repeal Obamacare and reform Medicare and Medicaid, has not addressed the sharp drug price increases that dominated the Presidential campaign.

Pharma companies are breathing a sigh of relief, but Trump could be more critical of drugmakers and their price increases than the industry expects, Allergan Inc Chief Executive Brent Saunders said on Thursday.

Saunders, speaking at the annual Forbes Healthcare Summit in New York, predicted Trump could be a “more vicious tweeter” against the drug industry than his former Democratic rival Hillary Clinton had been during the campaign.

Clinton’s tweets committing to a crackdown on exorbitant price increases have weighed heavily on pharmaceutical shares since her first tweet last September about an HIV drug sold by Turing Pharmaceuticals. Biotech stocks took another hit on Aug. 24, when she tweeted about Mylan NV’s EpiPen increases.

Pharma shares jumped in the days after Trump’s election as Clinton’s proposed price controls fell off the table. They have since given up most of those gains.

Saunders said Americans are rightly angry about price increases, and the industry needs to police itself or face government repercussions.

“I worry today that the pharmaceutical industry has a very false sense of security because of the Trump administration and a Republican-controlled Congress,” Saunders said.

Separately, Merck & Co CEO Ken Frazier said he thought one of Trump’s proposed healthcare reform policies - allowing the imports of drugs from other countries - will not work. The U.S. pays more than any other country for medicines, and Trump has suggested that people be allowed to import them from countries where they are cheaper. U.S. law currently forbids this in most cases.

“I don’t think it’s going to be made possible,” said Frazier, who spoke on CNBC after an appearance at the Forbes conference. “Every time we’ve tried to do that no FDA commissioner has ever been willing to certify the safety of those drugs.”

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