Clinton targets drug firm ‘price-gouging’

Hillary Clinton may have found the perfect target to show that she’ll be as tough on corporations as her Democratic presidential rival, Bernie Sanders: Big Pharma.

Following up on her tweet last week against “price-gouging” by Turing Pharmaceuticals that sent biotech stocks plummeting, the Democratic front-runner released a hard-hitting television ad on Monday suggesting that CEO Martin Shkreli decided to lower prices after she went after him.

In between, she unveiled a proposal to cap out-of-pocket drug expenses, offering tax credits to help families deal with soaring costs, forcing drug manufacturers to invest more on research and development, and obliging companies to invest in the production of generics.

The response from industry has been, to say the least, unenthusiastic.

“Secretary Clinton’s proposal would turn back the clock on medical innovation and halt progress against the diseases that patients fear most,” John Castellani, president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, wrote last week.

During a Facebook Q&A on Monday, however, Clinton doubled down on her proposals.

“My plan actually encourages more investment in innovation and research, not less,” Hilary Clinton wrote.

“So that should be a win-win for businesses and consumers. Biotech companies working on life-saving breakthroughs won’t have anything to fear from my plan. But if you’re price gouging American families and jacking up costs for no good reason, I’m going to hold you accountable.”

Targeting rising drug costs has become an important part of Ms Clinton’s presidential campaign, even as she continues to defend the Affordable Care Act, offering her a populist issue to keep pace with Bernie Sanders’ pursuit of the liberal vote.

Given that a Gallup poll released on September 14 showed that the percentage of Americans with a positive view of the pharmaceutical industry stands at 35%, down from 40% from the year before, big pharma appears to represent a safe target for Ms Clinton.

Overall, the US spent $374 billion (€334bn) on drugs in 2014, according to IMS Health, up 13% from the previous year.

“Pocketbook issues related to healthcare are a topic that resonates with a lot of Americans,” said Mollyann Brodie, executive director, public opinion and survey research, the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“So things that include the cost of prescription drugs, healthcare costs, are certainly a topic that any of the candidates may end up taking on because it will resonate with the American public.”

Donald Trump followed Ms Clinton’s lead, blasting Turing CEO and founder Martin Shkreli for raising the price of the life-saving medication Daraprim by over 5,000%.


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