Pfizer CEO: We may cut jobs, backpedal on expansions if Trump's pricing orders take effect

Albert Bourla incoming Pfizer CEO
CEO Albert Bourla is hoping to steer Pfizer through a planned spinoff of its Upjohn generics unit. (Pfizer)

President Donald Trump's recent spate of executive orders targeting U.S. drug prices has received heaps of scorn from the pharmaceutical industry and its lobbyists. Now, Pfizer says Trump's mandates could threaten American jobs if they ever go into effect. 

In an earnings call with investors Tuesday, CEO Albert Bourla blasted Trump's executive orders to rein in drug prices as "an enormous distraction" and threatened the possibility of job cuts for U.S. workers. 

"We have plans to invest in both R&D and manufacturing in the United States," Bourla said. "If finalized, these new executive orders could force us to rethink those plans, consider job reductions and add to the economic and health anxiety already widely felt in our country." 

Trump's newest efforts to stymie drug prices could also distract Pfizer's work at developing a COVID-19 vaccine alongside partner BioNTech, Bourla said. The vaccine entered phase 3 human testing Tuesday, and analysts have said Pfizer could rake in up to $15 billion in sales if the shot is found effective. The company agreed to sell 100 million doses to the U.S. government just last week for $1.95 billion.

"(Our workers) should worry only about how to defeat this virus and how to maintain the supply and should not start worrying about their jobs," Bourla said. "I think the timing was wrong."

Bourla's comments are the latest broadside between Big Pharma and the Trump administration after the president signed a series of executives orders that experts say likely won't have an effect on consumer pocketbooks anytime soon.

RELATED: Pharma execs, upset by Trump's drug pricing executive orders, refuse White House meeting

Tuesday, Politico reported that representatives from a group of major drugmakers refused to attend a White House meeting on drug prices, arguing that it likely wouldn't be a "productive meeting."

The crux of Big Pharma's concerns is Trump's plan to institute an international pricing index that would link government payer costs to the lowest drug prices abroad. Bourla called that plan "radical" and accused the Trump administration of "imposing socialized medicine to America, (which) will create uncertainty and could lead to job losses."

The industry's largest lobbying group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America backed up those comments in a statement Monday, saying the group is "steadfastly opposed to policies that would allow foreign governments to set prices for medicines in the United States."

RELATED: Vyndaqel, Ibrance boost Pfizer as it eyes COVID-19 vaccine launch this year

Maintaining business continuity for its branded drugs is a major priority for Pfizer as it prepares to offload its Upjohn generics business in the fourth quarter and needs sales drivers for its near-term future.

The drugmaker is looking to a "core 5" stable of drugs, including heart med Vyndaqel and breast cancer therapy Ibrance, to help drive 6% annual growth in the coming years, Pfizer execs said on Tuesday's call.

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