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With Donald Trump finally ensconced as the Republican nominee for president, it’s high time to applaud his spot-on positions on the pharmaceutical industry.

As a physician, I believe that Trump is absolutely right about allowing cheaper pharmaceutical drugs manufactured abroad to be sold in the United States. He is right that the pharmaceutical companies essentially sell their products to the federal government via Medicare and Medicaid without competitive bidding. In other areas of the budget, such as defense, federal laws require competitive bidding. It is outrageous this doesn’t occur with drugs and devices, especially since the health care budget is right behind defense in terms of expense.


Trump is right when he says that drug companies control the landscape. He appears to be willing to call it as it is and not worry about repercussions from the powerful drug interests, and has moved in the right direction in saying he would let Medicare negotiate with pharmaceutical companies if he becomes president. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, accepted more cash from pharmaceutical companies in the first six months of her campaign than any other candidate in either party. This lessens the potency of her claims to take similar action and suggests yet again disingenuous declarations. If she claims to be such an enemy of Big Pharma, then why are they contributing to her campaign?

Trump looks at the world through the prism of commerce. The situation we are in with pharmaceuticals and medical devices makes no sense to him. As a physician, I think it’s near criminal that special interests come before my patients. The drug lobbies have succeeded in making the importation of prescription drugs illegal under various self-serving agendas, disguised as “for the public good” and “protecting the drug companies” so they can continue to innovate.

Both of those charades are laughable. Big Pharma is big business; its objective is to make money for its stockholders. There’s nothing wrong with that, but don’t be fooled by the avalanche of ads positioning these corporations as do-gooders. It’s well-known that drug companies’ budgets for marketing are higher than for R&D. That false tune of the cost of innovation is plain stupid and a lie.


Unlike Hillary Clinton, whose campaign coffer is loaded with contributions from drug companies, Trump has barely dipped into that pot of besmirched gold. Yes, Trump is defying Republican dogma, but he’s honestly and forthrightly calling Big Pharma on its Big Baloney.

The same indictments of Big Pharma go to the heart of medical device manufacturers. Their control of the landscape and funding of the FDA is the fox guarding the hen house.

Whether it is drugs such as Vioxx or Avandia that are released without adequate vetting under industry pressure and kill over a hundred thousand people, or a medical device (Infuse) that includes bone growth proteins that led to sterility in men, it is the same story. Money buys influence, and these companies continue to sell the Kool-Aid that their goal is to improve the health and welfare of the American public.

Back during the early part of the primaries, my son Josh’s Instagram picture wearing a “F…K Trump” headband on a Trump golf course went viral. I took a look at how he and I were communicating our opinions. I am very proud of him as a person, as an athlete, and as a student, but disagreed with his choice of sending such a picture. The message was crude and thoughtless; something Josh is not. He redeemed himself and realized his mistake with his second posting, which added the caption: “I support all presidential candidates in this race for the White House. I believe in the American system of democracy and hope that our country picks the best and most qualified person to be our Commander in Chief.”

On that point, father and son do agree.

I know it gets harder and harder to hear any rational discussion, much less debate, as we get closer to the election. But I think it behooves us all to take a breath and listen for the other person’s truth. Only that way will we be able to pick the right person to be our next president.

Charles D. Rosen, MD, is cofounder and president of the Association for Medical Ethics and clinical professor of orthopaedic surgery at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine.

  • If you have ever been to any Mexican resort town you will see Drug Stores everywhere for people who take a lot of Meds. can pay for their vacation by buying their Drugs there! One tenth the price they are here!
    My Nueroligist is from India and he goes home once a year for Free because he can buy all the Drugs his Wife has to take so much Cheaper in India! We are Ripped off by All Drug Companies!

  • So without knowing whether she would have done what she said, you have decided she wouldn’t? I would have expected better thought processing from a professional.

    And maybe you haven’t noticed that a lot of very bad things are going to come out of the Trump reign. Can’t give him a free pass on one good call. Whether he will do what he says with drugs also remains to be seen. Did you not know that it was the Republicans who prevented the price negotiations for Medicare and Medicaid? I am guessing that the first time someone dies after a bad drug comes from out of the country, this is going to be shut down pronto.

  • Rather than listening to Donald Trump’s positive opinions about Medicare purchasing cheaper drugs made in foreign counties, it is far more important to pay attention to reports of his own use of amphetamines. I understand that Dr. Greenberg from NYC is dead, and ironically, even if alive, he would not speak of his treatment of Trump and others for weight loss. HIPPA
    Psychiatrists are reminded that they have decided it’s unethical to even talk about any disorders this man evidences. ETHICS
    And the emperors have no clothes.

  • I also agree with these position statements and some of your other rather cynical comments. One problem – they are not D. Trump’s; he is merely riding on the coat-tails of more informed people,
    and saying what the crowd expect to hear, as usual.
    Trump is also a billionaire; he does not need assistance from pharma, or any other business lobby, to get elected, or hang himself, according to one’s viewpoint.

    • The below comment was in response to another comment which has since been removed, one in which the author allegedly believed that Trump has no financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry, with the implication being that he is a morally upright person.

  • You can’t seriously believe Trump is not also in bed with Big Pharma lobbyists behind the doors of his gold-spray painted Trump Towers. If you really do, congratulations, you fell for his lies hook line and sinker. He will obviously do anything to attain absolute power because he is a narcissistic billionaire. As a rising physician, I personally do not want to practice in a totalitarian state. Clinton may not have as much finesse as Trump when it comes to covering her trails, but no Pharma lobbyist in their right mind is going to NOT play both sides here, and clearly Trump is the one they will now flock to as GOP leader. I will admit he has some degree of intelligence – he knows how to play intelligent men like you. He can get away with saying one thing as the “anti-establishment candidate” and then hold a business meeting with an entirely different tone that is driven by profit and greed, or hire Ivanka/Pence/[insert lowest bidder here] to do what he wouldn’t dare mention to potential ex-Bernie supporters who may convert to him.

    I am absolutely in agreement with you that Big Pharma and the kickbacks they receive from owning DC and our congresspeople has resulted in an unethical, immoral telling of prettily packaged lies to the American people for the better part of the past many decades. Only now with a Reality Show TV star on camera at election time is it so abundantly clear. Please don’t believe the lies and use that rational mind to put the pieces of the puzzle together for yourself. Don’t replace Big Government with Big Business as the gods of our time. Clinton is typical, but I’d rather vote for the enemy I know and then work with my generation to change things ourselves. If there’s one history lesson all of us should have already learned by this point, it’s that We the People need to take back our government so that it functions to represent us.

    When I used to live in Saudi Arabia, I went to Riyadh as a student to attend the Energy Dialogue conference immediately following the Louisiana oil spill. I saw the look on the face of BP’s CEO: NO REMORSE for the murder of countless oceanic species. I was there, in a gold palace, with the CEOs of Shell, DOW, etc – all the important businessmen who also run the show in addition to Pharma (they let a few of us women – faculty and students – in after yelling at us to put on our abayas which they had previously assured us were not necessary). Publicly, the conversation sold to the American public was centered around how committed to the environment BP is, how they will take ownership and responsibility for all the damage, how they will fund research, blah blah blah. Meanwhile, in a palace in Saudi Arabia, they hold secret meetings about how to keep oil and oil byproducts AKA plastics and paint and food colorings RELEVANT. Why? Because they know they own the media and the economy, their actions are above the law, and the game is rigged so that they will keep on profiteering off the ignorance and apathy of Americans. Our country is too asleep watching Netflix and FOX news to read between the lines and follow the money. Why digress to tell a story about the energy industry when the topic was Pharma? Because at the end of the day when rich people with shoddy morals get together, those who have lost touch with their basic instinct to collaborate with fellow human beings who share a dream to make the world a better place for ourselves and our children, they meet where they think no one else can hear them. It is all the same. There is only one King and that is More Money. DT is also his slave.

    Make America Great Again? Let’s start with education. We almost certainly would never have gotten into this mess with DT allegedly championing the masses if our schools turned out more children who are able to think independently and creatively before entering the workforce and becoming indentured servants to pay off student loans. Perhaps then there wouldn’t be the looming threat of a fascist regime hanging over our heads. JM2C.

  • It is great to see so many well informed opinions on this topic; I especially like the challenges of insurance and wholesalers’ non-value added role in the deliver of prescribed medications to patients.

    I have traveled the world monitoring the quality of drug manufacturing for big pharma companies for almost 40-years. Simply stated, American made is superior, Western Europe is not bad either. After that things get dicey. I do not let friends and loved ones take medicine made in India or China. FDA is way behind on regulating quality from those regions of the world; and you cannot regulate, or test, quality into a product.

  • As someone who works in the pharmaceutical industry, specifically on the generic side. I don’t think enough people pay attention to the “middle men” better known as the wholesalers and retails. The pharmaceutical industry from a manufacturing standpoint is still very diversified and increases competition; to the contrary, the “customers” (wholesalers) have consolidated dramatically in recent years. People worry about the manufactures charging too much, but don’t bat an eye at the fact the retailers are in joint ventures with wholesalers (Walgreens/ABC, CVS/Cardinal) not to mention that some of the of these are also prescription benefits managers (Caremark/CVS). Also note that CVS business standards state that they do not take price increases from manufactures; however with the market price goes up, they raise their prices at retail to match the market even though they are not paying any more for the product.

  • This conclusion (pharma are ripping us off) is fairly easy to make, it doesn’t take a Rhodes Scholar to figure it out. What is disgusting is his racist, misogynist rhetoric. He labels his opposition with whatever shit will stick. I’m not a fan of the Clintons, but they have at least not stooped to this kind of LOW.

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