The Trump administration announced Thursday that it was appointing a former corporate executive to lead the Department of Health and Human Service’s efforts to lower the price of prescription drugs.
Daniel M. Best, who spent 12 years working at Pfizer Pharmaceuticals and also recently helped fashion CVSHealth’s prescription drug plans, will be a senior adviser to the secretary for drug pricing reform.
“Daniel Best recognizes what President Trump and I, and every American know: prescription drugs prices are too high,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. “[Daniel] has the deep experience necessary to design and enact reforms to lower the price of medicines that health Americans live healthier and longer lives.”
Best is not the first pharmaceutical executive to be drafted in by the Trump administration. After serving in HHS under President George W. Bush, Azar worked for Lilly USA, an affiliate of the drug maker Eli Lilly, from 2012 to January 2017. During that time, Eli Lilly tripled the price of insulin as well as raising the cost of other key drugs that treat conditions like osteoporosis and heart disease.
Trump has repeatedly pledged that one of his main goals as president is to reduce the price of prescription medication. Prior to his inauguration, Trump said that Big Pharma “has a lot of lobbies, a lot of lobbyists and a lot of power,” and that they were “getting away with murder.”
But despite the rhetoric, the Trump administration is following a policy route that is extremely friendly to big pharmaceutical companies — the addition of another corporate executive is only the latest instance.
Last June, Kaiser Health News and Politico revealed that the administration was discussing solving the drug price crisis with a list of Big Pharma-friendly policies, including ending discounts for low income hospitals, speeding drug approvals through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and strengthening monopoly rights of pharmaceuticals overseas. The last point is particularly important, because it would threaten to drive up drug prices as it thwarts competition in the global marketplace.
Trump’s initial promises to bring down drug prices were described at first as “nightmare” by Big Pharma. However, according to Politico, major companies were quickly assured that the White House’s interests aligned with them and the industry receded from full-blown panic.
“The folk [Trump’s] brought in tend to be free market folks,” health policy expert Kim Monk told Vox. “[They’re] industry folks who don’t like the government negotiating drug prices because they don’t believe it would work.”
Former business executives are hardly an anomaly in the Trump administration. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was a former Goldman Sachs executive before joining the White House. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, meanwhile, was a former investor — who also put money in a shipping firm tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin.