Trump's latest pharma slam? 'I don't want their money' for 2020 campaign

Donald Trump
President Donald J. Trump wants Big Pharma held accountable over its role in the nation's opioid epidemic. (C-SPAN)

Just take a look at President Donald Trump's Twitter account, and it's obvious he's got a history with drugmakers—and price-checking is just one of them. After all, he's playing to a crowd that loves to hate pharma.

And this week, he piled on again. Campaign contributions from pharma will not be welcome in his 2020 re-election bid, Trump said at an event focused on drug abuse. And the industry “should be held accountable” for its role in the illicit distribution and marketing of opioids to Americans.

“They didn’t give to my campaign. I don’t want their money,” Trump said during a Wednesday speech at the Rx Heroin and Drug Abuse Summit in Atlanta. “They gave to a lot of other campaigns; that’s the problem. But we are holding them—I couldn’t care less. They’ve got to do what’s right.”

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He's never turned pharma's money away before. While Trump is no stranger to blasting Big Pharma in his speeches, the president has collected some cash from the industry, both before and after his election in 2016. 

Trump's campaign took in $386,862 in pharma donations, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That's about a quarter of the $2,664,585 Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton received during the campaign.

And once elected, Trump's inauguration committee received a $1 million check from Pfizer. 

RELATED: No big surprises for pharma in Trump's speech. President's plan 'very, very positive' for the industry, analyst says

Shortly after benefitting from pharma's contributions, Trump went on to blast the industry for routine price hikes and aggressive litigation with would-be competitors, saying companies were "getting away with murder" in a January 2017 speech. Despite the tough talk, when the Trump administration unveiled its "blueprint" for tackling drug prices last year, one analyst called it "very, very positive" for the industry.

In July 2018, Trump directly blasted Pfizer for a round of price hikes, saying on Twitter the drugmaker "should be ashamed that they have raised drug prices for no reason." Though Pfizer argued back, saying prices changed on just 10% of its portfolio—and some dropped—then-CEO Ian Read publicly agreed to delay those hikes. Just as publicly, Read said it would be back to "business as usual," and Pfizer raised prices—as usual—in January.

RELATED: On drug pricing, Trump's budget amps up message on familiar goals

Lowering the cost of prescription drugs has been a common refrain for the president, who outlined in his office’s 2020 budget proposal Medicare and Medicaid changes aimed at drug spending, plus proposals to ramp up biosimilar competition, a crackdown on regulatory "gaming" and more.

The proposal followed a plan the Trump administration outlined last summer that would lower the cost of prescription drugs while fast-tracking approval of generic and biosim competitors.

On Wednesday, Trump also highlighted a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday against two executives of the Rochester Drug Cooperative (RDC) for the unlawful distribution of oxycodone and fentanyl, and conspiring to defraud the DEA.

RELATED: Drug distributor and 2 of its former executives hammered with felony criminal charges for opioid sales

The New York federal suit said RDC sales of oxycodone tablets grew 800% from 2012 to 2016 while sales of synthetic opioid fentanyl increased about 2,000% as the nation’s opioid epidemic raged.  

Trump highlighted his administration’s role in decreasing opioid prescriptions by one-third during his presidency and applauded the recovery of more than 3.7 million pounds of drugs he said have been turned in during National Prescription Drug Take Back Days.

The most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control showed opioid prescriptions in 2017 dropped to a 10-year low of 58.7 prescriptions per 100, although scripts had been trending downward since 2012.

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