Drug Company Stocks Plunge After Trump Says the Industry's 'Getting Away With Murder'

January 11th 2017

Kyle Jaeger

President-elect Donald Trump sent shares of top drug companies plummeting after making critical remarks about the pharmaceutical industry Wednesday during his first press conference since last July. 


Speaking to reporters, Trump said the pharmaceutical industry was "getting away with murder" because its lobbying had stopped the U.S. government from negotiating better drug prices. He pledged to "change the bidding process" after he takes office.

The U.S. has the highest drug costs in the world, and that's in large part because the government doesn't have the ability to negotiate prices, according to heath care experts. That's in spite of the fact that the federal government is one of the largest consumer of pharmaceuticals, spending billions of dollars through federal programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. There's widespread public support for changing that policy (83 percent of Americans favor allowing the government to negotiate, a 2015 survey found), reform efforts have consistently stalled in Congress.

Pharmaceutical drugs

Trump suggested that lobbying efforts were to blame, a belief shared by many critics of the industry. Last year, Mother Jones reported on the "enormous financial influence of the drug industry, which rivals the insurance industry as the top-spending lobbying machine in Washington."

"It has funneled $1.96 billion into lobbying in the nation's capital since the beginning of 2003 and, in just 2015 and the first half of 2016, has spent the equivalent of $468,108 per member of Congress. The industry also is a major contributor to House and Senate campaigns."

Immediately after Trump indicated his administration would pursue an alternative "bidding process" on drug prices, shares of top pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer, Amgen, and Purdue fell sharply, Business Insider reported.

This isn't the first time the president-elect appears to have unsettled the industry. After his interview with Time was published last month, in which he vaguely promised to "bring down drug prices," the market responded similarly, with drug companies suffering temporary losses. 

Concerns about drug pricing are shared across the aisle in Congress, with many Democrats and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders also calling for increased regulations, so this may be one area where Trump might actually have more allies on the left than the right.