By Drew Johnson
Imagine if Barack Obama signed an executive order implementing socialist price controls on prescription drugs. And suppose that decision limited the drugs available to patients, dried up funding for innovative new treatments and resulted in the unnecessary deaths of thousands of Americans a year.
Republicans would be furious. Conservatives would do everything within their power to run him out of the White House. Tea Party members would march in the streets.
But President Obama didn’t concoct such a dangerous, irresponsible, un-American executive order. President Trump did.
Trump recently introduced four new executive orders. The final executive order is a catastrophically irresponsible scheme that threatens to destroy American’s access to drugs and prevent the development of life-saving new medicines.
The executive order uses communist-style government price controls to bind the price of some prescription drugs to the cost of medicines in countries with socialist health care systems.
Trump’s heart may be in the right place — the executive order is intended to lower the price of drugs for patients and taxpayers. But, in this case, the medicine is far worse than the cure.
Countries that use the socialist price caps Trump plans to emulate are all plagued with a serious failing that unnecessarily risks the health and lives of its citizens: Groundbreaking new drugs are often not available to patients.
For example, 95 percent of new oncology meds are available in America, while just 74 percent of the same drugs are available in the UK. Fifty-eight percent of oncology drugs made their way to Canada, 49 percent are available in Japan and Greeks have access to a measly 8 percent of the treatments.
Worse still, the number of new drugs originating from the UK, France and Germany has fallen by more than half over the past 40 years. That’s because there is no economic incentive for drug makers to invest resources in countries where they often can’t come close to recouping the nearly $3 billion price tag associated with bringing a typical new drug to market. As a result, America has become the primary producer of innovative, life-saving new treatments — and will likely be the country responsible for developing a COVID-19 vaccine.
If Trump has his way and the U.S. adopts socialist price controls, research funding for new drugs will dry up. As a result, many Americans who would’ve been treated by state-of-the-art cures will instead needlessly suffer and die.
It is true that patients in countries like Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Greece and the UK often pay less for their prescriptions. Countries are ripping off America by not paying their fair share of the astronomical cost of developing innovative new medicines.
Trump should appoint a special negotiator in the U.S. Trade Representative’s office to work out a more reasonable deal between America and countries that benefit from our pharmaceutical industry. The negotiator should demand that countries that benefit from American drug research help share the cost — or face economic consequences.
It is vital that Republicans hold Trump’s feet to the fire and demand that he shelve the executive order before it undermines free market values, endangers the health of millions of Americans and kills medical innovations that could save countless lives.
Drew Johnson is a columnist and government watchdog who serves as a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.