Pfizer CEO: Trump's wrong on pharma. 'Ethical' companies nothing like Shkreli or Valeant

Pfizer CEO Ian Read
Pfizer CEO Ian Read said one component to pharma's reputation problem is "perception."

Forget what you've heard about pharma in the court of public opinion lately, Pfizer CEO Ian Read says. The “ethical” industry he knows is nothing like notorious ex-CEO Martin Shkreli's work, and certainly isn't "getting away with murder" as President-elect Donald Trump claims.

“Most of the problem of reputation is coming from those that I don’t consider part of the ethical pharmaceutical business,” Read said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, calling out Mylan, former Turing Pharma CEO Shkreli and Valeant Pharmaceuticals by name.

Read argued Tuesday that a “terribly complicated and not transparent” healthcare system in the U.S. has led to the public’s distrust in pharma. Elsewhere in the world, such as in Asia or Latin America, trust in drugmakers is much higher, he pointed out.

The problem? Read figures one component is “perception.” He said the “ethical” industry does research, prices responsibly and seeks to recover its R&D costs. Not mincing his words, he said another segment of the pharma business doesn’t do research, and that sector has done a great deal to mar public opinion.

The stance is similar to PhRMA’s back during the Shkreli price-hike episode. Shortly after a now-notorious overnight price hike by Turing Pharma on Daraprim, the industry group sought to distance itself.

Addressing recent remarks by President-elect Donald Trump that pharma is “getting away with murder,” Read said Trump likely “hasn’t been briefed” on the great deal of competition in the industry.

Trump last week said he’ll push for more competitive “bidding” to save billions in healthcare costs, and Monday backed Medicare price negotiation. But Read contends “it’s a very complicated industry," one with a “huge amount of bidding and extremely aggressive purchasing.”

Since the infamous Turing Pharma Daraprim move, companies including Mylan and Valeant have been subjected to investigations and countless negative headlines over their own price hikes.