Novartis, Bayer CEOs get time with Trump as he meets with EU business leaders during Davos trip

Before President Donald Trump made headlines with his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Friday, the president and his advisers met behind-the-scenes with European business leaders, including two pharma executives, to try and gin up more U.S. investment. 

The president took a dinner with Novartis' CEO-to-be Vas Narasimhan, Bayer CEO Werner Baumann and other executives to "share our economic success story and to encourage them to continue to invest in America," National Economic Council director Gary Cohn told reporters at a White House briefing ahead of the trip. 

"The attendees run companies that have sizable footprints in the United States," Cohn said. "They have invested in our economy, and we want them to continue to do so and encourage others to join them." 

Other executives at the dinner included representatives of Nestle, ThyssenKrupp, Anheuser-Busch, Nokia, Deloitte, Volvo and more, according to CNBC. A Bayer spokesperson told FiercePharma the company "appreciated the opportunity to sit down with President Trump during the World Economic Forum in Davos and discuss Bayer and our future investment in the United States.”

The meeting and Davos trip come closely on the heels of tax reform in the U.S., which the administration hopes will spur investment and create jobs. Already since its passing, biopharma companies have inked several sizable deals as market watchers previously predicted an M&A wave for 2018. 

New Jersey's Celgene bought CAR-T player Juno Therapeutics last week in a $9 billion buyout while France's Sanofi bought U.S.-based Bioverativ for $11.6 billion last week. Sanofi followed that up Monday with a $4.8 billion deal for Belgium-based Ablynx. 

It remains to be seen, however, whether the U.S. tax changes will spur job creation and investment or simply put more cash in shareholders' pockets, as some believe it will. Pfizer recently announced it would repurchase $10 billion worth of shares and boost its quarterly dividend.

The meeting at Davos also comes a year after Trump said at a press conference that pharma is "getting away with murder" and that he would would put an end to it in office. A year into Trump's presidency, however, many contend his administration's actions have largely favored industry. After former HHS secretary Tom Price resigned last year due to a travel scandal, Trump appointed pharma insider and former Eli Lilly executive to the top healthcare post in the U.S.

During the president's first year in office, pharma's lobby organization in the U.S., PhRMA, upped its lobbying spending by 30%, according to its disclosures. The group represented industry on issues including importation, Medicare price negotiations and intellectual property rights.

Editor's note: This story was updated with a statement from Bayer.