Merck CEO: When it comes to drug pricing and politics, pharma's in the 'crosshairs'

Merck CEO
At a Yahoo event, Merck CEO Ken Frazier said pharma is in the political "crosshairs." (PhRMA)

It’s no secret that pharma’s a familiar political target, and with 2020 elections getting into gear, Merck CEO Ken Frazier knows his industry faces challenges in the year ahead. 

Speaking at Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit, Frazier said pharma is “right in the crosshairs” as politicians and lawmakers discuss ways to lower prescription drug prices. Presidential candidates have voiced various ideas to fight high prices, and Frazier said some are “legitimate plans” while others will “hurt innovation,” as quoted by Yahoo Finance. 

Drug pricing proposals under consideration include Medicare negotiations, importation, fines for excessive price hikes and more. For its part, the pharma industry has worked to highlight how new drugs are advancing patient care and helping reduce overall healthcare expenses.  

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At the event, the Merck CEO also touched on a recent Gallup poll that found pharma ranks dead last among 25 industries in consumer sentiment. The industry’s negative score this year had rarely been matched during 19 years of the poll. 

Pharma's reputation score was below Congress, bankers and the tobacco industry, Frazier said at the event.  

“That’s not a good place to be,” he added.

RELATED: Pharma sinks to new low⁠—and takes last place⁠—in consumer sentiment poll 

Aside from those issues, Frazier said there's heightened competition across the industry, which presents another challenge for drugmakers.

Frazier made national headlines back in 2017 when he resigned from President Donald Trump’s manufacturing council following the president’s response to white supremacist violence in Virginia. As national politics have heated up in recent weeks amid an impeachment inquiry, it remains to be seen whether lawmakers and the administration will act on pricing.  

RELATED: Who's toughest on drug prices? Watch Trump and his 2020 challengers wrestle for the title

The issue remains a priority for voters, and despite the ongoing impeachment inquiry, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she’d be willing to work with the administration. Hitting back, Trump said in a tweet that she’s “incapable,” dealing a blow to the chances of a bipartisan solution.

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