During his campaign for president, Donald Trump sounded a lot like Bernie Sanders on one policy issue: He promised to implement sweeping government reform to lower drug prices and called Big Pharma executives “disgusting” for profiting off life-saving medication.
It was a campaign pledge that earned Trump some praise for his apparent populism. But it’s not one that Trump seems prepared to keep.
According to reporting from Kaiser Health News and Politico, the Trump administration’s task force working on policy solutions for rising drug prices is now cozying up to pharmaceutical industry interests.
Documents from the task force reviewed by the two outlets reveal the administration is backing away from ambitious reform, such as allowing the government to directly negotiate with Medicare over drug prices, in favor of focusing on policy priorities that mirror Big Pharma talking points.
For instance, one of the “principles” outlined in the documents is extending the patent monopolies on drugs overseas, a policy that threatens to drive up prices because it thwarts generic competition in the global marketplace. One of the central features of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, this policy sparked huge concern among health care advocates during debate over the TPP.
According to Kaiser’s sources, the working group also discussed other policies favored by the pharmaceutical industry that would not successfully bring down prices and, in some cases, would raise them even further.
Politico corroborates this information, reporting that the policies being floated are friendlier to major drug companies than to consumers.
One suggestion discussed by the task force, for example, is rolling back programs that require pharmaceutical companies to provide discounted medication to clinics serving low-income patients.
Earlier this year, industry publications reported that Trump’s rhetoric on drug-pricing policy was “Big Pharma’s nightmare.” But now, according to Politico, “the industry is no longer in a state of panic” as major drug companies are assured the administration’s interests are aligned with theirs.
As the White House works to finalize an executive order on drug pricing, these reports suggest it won’t involve drastic reform.
It’s hardly the first example of Trump’s promises regarding health care reform falling totally flat. The president’s first 100 days in office were accompanied by dozens of broken policy promises — including his support of a health care bill that breaks his repeated pledge to provide higher-quality and lower-cost insurance to all Americans.
In fact, after examining the health care promises that Trump made during his campaign, ThinkProgress found that the legislation being pushed by House Republicans and backed by Trump would break every single one.
As time passes and evidence mounts, a dwindling number of Americans believe that Trump will follow through on his promises. According to Gallup polling released this spring, the percentage of people who think Trump “keeps his promises” fell 17 points between February and April.