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US Pharma and Biotech Summit 2024: The Impact of the Presidential Election

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Experts discuss how the upcoming election is impacting the pharma industry, and how either party’s victory could change the landscape in the following years.

US Pharma and Biotech Summit

US Pharma and Biotech Summit 2024
New York City

While the outcome of any presidential election typically has effects on most industries in the United States, the 2024 is expected to be significantly impactful. This is especially true of the pharma industry, due to both political parties taking stands against the high cost of healthcare, especially the cost medicine.

Current president Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law in August 2022. The act has several components that will affect the pharma industry, mostly in relation to drug pricing and Medicare. Meanwhile, former president Donald Trump has openly discussed implementing international reference pricing for drugs.

At the Financial Times’ US Pharma and Biotech Summit 2024, the following guests gathered to discuss the potential impacts of the election: Terri Stewart, EMD Serono; Robby Zirkelbach, PhRMA; Eric Gascho, National Health Council. During the conversation, one thing that remained clear is that nobody knows for sure what’s going to happen in November or the following year when the new presidential term begins.

All of the guests agreed that it’s likely that Biden winning would likely result in him pushing for more regulations based on what he’s included in the Inflation Reduction Act. It’s less clear what President Trump would do, although he has also taken aim at pricing concerns in the past. The guests also agreed that due to the turbulent nature of the geopolitical landscape at the moment, neither candidate may be able to focus on healthcare reform as much as they would like.

While discussing the different plans that each party is expected to work on, Stewart explained why she thinks there might be a messaging problem.

“What I would say is that neither one of those messages, IRA acceleration or international reference pricing, is particularly hopeful,” she said. “It's not what people hope for. Instead, they hope their grandmother lives long enough to make it to their high school graduation, they hope that there's something out there to treat some illness that they have that has no treatment. And so, my recommendation either one of them is that people want hope.”

Meanwhile, Zirkelbach touched on the issues he sees with legislation coming from either party, saying, “There's never been better potential to treat, cure, and prevent disease than right now. And the question is, are we going to continue to preserve and protect the ecosystem that enables patients to be able to get access to those medicines faster than in other areas of the world? Unfortunately, in recent years, we've seen a real assault on that.

Regulations have gone after the foundational elements of our system, whether it's IP protection, the regulatory environment, or having a competitive market that sets prices and enables patients to access those treatments. And it's critically important that we protect and preserve the systems we get more medicines to patients.”

Gascho, meanwhile, discussed what he sees as the most likely reality: neither party taking a strong enough majority to fully enact any major changes. “Rather than full scale repeal, we’ll most likely see Congress sort of tweak around the edges of it, because we are going to be a situation where we are faced with narrow margins. And what we want to see in the patient community is making these real changes for patients and not just talking about what the savings are to the system. How are we really translating that into the cost that patients pay for the pharmacy counter?”

Another issue that the three speakers agreed upon is that there is going to continue to be a lot of conversations around the role of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). Zirkelbach believes he’s seen pressure on PBMs mounting, while Stewart noted that more and more patients are starting to ask where exactly the money they spend at the pharmacy counter is actually going. Gascho, however, argued that it’s going to be hard for politicians to argue or campaign based on the role of PBMs, as it’s a complicated issue and many Americans aren’t aware of the role PBMs play in the system.

All three agreed that more transparency would help either party gain favor among patients.

Ultimately, it’s not known what will happen after election day. While both parties are at odds over how to handle the issues, both republican and democrat voters are voicing concerns over pharma pricing. Whether this leads to more legislation or reform on the system has yet to be seen.

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