Remember when Donald Trump said that Big Pharma was “getting away with murder”? At that time, the pharmaceutical industry got very worried, with stock prices falling as a result. One drug company executive said, “When the president-elect says we’re going to negotiate drug pricing, you have to take that seriously.”
Actually, you don’t. It turns out that as usual, Trump was lying through his teeth. Only six weeks after his inauguration, the Trump Administration has prevented a number of shareholder resolutions that would have forced a number of pharmaceutical companies to explain and justify their price increases. Not directly, of course; the actual dirty work was done under the watch of one of the many swamp dwellers with whom he has been surrounding himself. Case in point: new Securities and Exchange Commission head, Michael Piwowar.
Piwowar, an economist and life-long Republican, was first appointed to the SEC as a commissioner under President Obama. He has been a critic of the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC), an agency that among other things has the power to prevent financial institutions from engaging in the type of “casino gambling” that resulted in the crisis of 2009.
Piwowar calls the FSOC the “Firing Squad on Capitalism” and “Unaccountable Capital Markets Death Panel.” Near the end of January, Trump appointed Piwowar as acting chairman of the SEC – not long after meeting with several pharmaceutical industry CEOs.
Now, the SEC under Piwowar has blocked shareholder resolutions that would have forced Big Pharma to provide more transparency in drug pricing. To be more exact, the SEC has issued “no action” letters to these companies, assuring them that the SEC would have no problem with the omission of such resolutions from shareholder ballots.
This represents yet another defeat for consumers in a vicious ongoing war by Big Pharma to bleed patients and the health care system for every nickel. On more than one occasion, pharmaceutical lobbyists have successfully bribed members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, getting them to vote against measures that would allow Americans to re-import cheaper drugs from Canada and allow Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices. Big Pharma has also been going into state houses across the country, blocking state-level efforts to rein in their excesses and force the industry to explain itself on drug pricing.
It’s none too good for investors, either. Shareholders in pharmaceutical companies point out that outrageous price hikes for life-saving medications have given the industry a black eye and is rapidly destroying public trust. According to a recent Kaiser poll, nearly three-quarters of Americans today believe that Big Pharma puts profits above human lives – and they are absolutely correct. Meanwhile, Donna Meyer, a social responsibility consultant and Director of Shareholder Advocacy for non-profit Mercy Investment Services, is confused about the pharmaceutical industry’s willingness to sacrifice its long-term credibility and public image for massive short-term profits. Pointing out that such unreasonable price increases constitute a real risk to public health care, she says that shareholders are
“…mystified as to why they [drug companies] are not willing to engage in a more fulsome discussion of pricing strategies. This active obstruction to a simple request for transparency has raised some serious concerns about their commitment to those who rely on these critical drugs versus their commitment to profits.”
The answer: they don’t care one bit. And now that the most corrupt Administration since Warren Harding is running the show and Trump is filling his swamp with the most predatory creatures he can find, Big Pharma will be able to continue engaging in merciless price gouging, forcing patients and taxpayers to cough up more and more for vital medication while they’re laughing all the way to the bank.