Pfizer CEO: Clinton's plan to curb high drug prices would be 'very negative for innovation'

Pfizer’s CEO Ian Read is not a fan of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s plan to bring down the price of drugs.

Bloomberg reports that at a conference earlier this week, Read criticised the plan, which Clinton proposed last week. Clinton, if elected, hopes to institute a panel that would have “aggressive new set of enforcement tools” against drugs that suddenly rise in price.

“The Clinton approach to health care drives you to a one-payer system, and drives you to rationing, drives you to a place where most consumers don’t want to be,” Read said at the conference. “In its totality it would be very negative for innovation.”

The panel, according to a fact sheet released September 2, would be able to:

  • Make alternative drugs available by supporting manufacturers that make competing drugs and finding ways to drive up competition while bringing down the prices of the drugs.
  • Import drugs from other countries with similar safety standards to the US in emergency situations.
  • Place penalties, including fines, on drugmakers. That money could then be used to increase access to the drug.

Clinton’s plan decidedly made the point that the panel wouldn’t be targeting innovation. “These strong new tools will ensure Americans can afford prescription drugs, and make sure that drug companies get ahead through innovation and research, rather than unjustified price increases,” the factsheet said.

But Read didn’t seem convinced that would be the case, instead pointing to innovation as the way to drive down costs.

“The way you reduce cost to society is having more products in the same category,” Read said. “So the way you get more value is by having more money in innovation.”

Read isn’t the only pharma CEO who has spoken out since the debate over drug prices sparked again in August over the price of the EpiPen, an emergency auto-injector used to treat extreme allergic reactions that has increased in cost by more than 500% since 2007.

Brent Saunders, the chief executive of Allergan, pledged to put limits on the size and frequency of drug price hikes. Allergan, a pharmaceutical company known for making Botox, coincidentally, planned to merge with Pfizer last year, though the deal fell apart in April after the US Treasury released new rules governing tax inversions that undercut the deal’s key rationale.

Going forward, Allergan won’t change the price of a drug more than once a year, and those increases will only be in the single-digit-per cent range — no 100%, or even 20%, increases allowed.

“We are drawing a line in the sand and saying we can be one of the fastest-growing companies in our industry, we can invest in R&D and innovation, and we can have a social contract where we act responsibly and make our drugs accessible to people and patients,” Saunders told Business Insider in an interview on Tuesday.

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