WASHINGTON — The drug industry’s much-publicized pledges not to hike their prices — however temporary they might be — are clearly keeping President Trump happy.
Tuesday, at a dinner at his New Jersey golf course, Trump didn’t accuse the industry of “getting away with murder,” or lament “RIPOFF” prices, as he has in the past.
Instead, he offered his gratitude.
“We want to just thank them,” Trump said, according to the White House pool report.
He took credit for the announcements — first from Pfizer (PFE), and then from other companies like Novartis (NVS) and Merck — that the companies would temporarily avoid increasing their prices, or that they would roll back recently instituted price increases, sometimes on drugs that are prescribed infrequently.
“They never did that before,” Trump said. “They asked for an increase in drugs, they actually posted it, it was increased, and I was not happy, because we want to get drug prices down.”
That’s not quite right. Companies never need to “ask” before changing the price of their drugs.
Trump also appeared to suggest that his administration will make an announcement about drug pricing next week.
“And we are announcing something next week which is going to get them down really, really substantially,” Trump said, also according to a White House transcript. “But we didn’t think it was appropriate. And we want to just thank them — and that’s the whole group of them — and they know who we’re talking about.”
When asked, the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services did not provide any more information on the substance of the announcement.
In the past, Trump has made similar statements promising future policy changes that did not ultimately occur.
This isn’t the first time Trump has thanked drug makers. In a tweet in July, he thanked Novartis and Pfizer “for not increasing your prices on prescription drugs.”
Democrats and drug pricing experts have warned that what the drug makers are promising won’t have any long-term impact on patients. Pfizer’s prices, for example, will likely go back up after the end of the year.
Most of the attendees at Tuesday night’s dinner didn’t come from the pharmaceutical industry — but the single guest who did has been critical of Trump in the past: Alex Gorsky, of Johnson & Johnson.
Gorsky stepped down from a White House manufacturing council last year after Trump expressed a degree of support for a white supremacist rally in Virginia.
And in May, he went on national TV to warn of the “unintended consequences” of Trump’s plan to lower drug prices.
Johnson & Johnson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.