Trump Executive Order threatens R&D when we need it most to fight COVID-19

By Nicole Longo | July 31, 2020

In case you missed it, President Trump recently signed executive orders that would implement sweeping changes to the biopharmaceutical industry. While his intention may have been to help Americans afford their medicines, he instead declared war on medical innovation. Our nation’s priority should be beating COVID-19 and getting America back on its feet economically, but these executive orders do the opposite.

The so-called “Most Favored Nation” executive order, also known as the International Pricing Index, is particularly alarming considering price setting policies have a history of chilling investment in research and development of innovative medicines. This executive order would allow U.S. politicians to decide what medicines are worth based on foreign governments’ arbitrary determinations of a medicine’s value. How is that possible? Because the executive order appears to rely on a concept known as international reference pricing, where a government sets the price of a medicine based on prices set by other governments.

Whether it is this executive order or Speaker Pelosi’s HR3 and regardless of which group of countries are referenced, any form of government price setting is the wrong approach for America – especially in the midst of a public health emergency. These policies threaten to restrict Americans’ access to medicines, jeopardize American jobs and divert the biopharmaceutical industry’s focus and much-needed resources away from life-saving efforts – including finding treatments and a vaccine for COVID-19. As the Wall Street Journal editorial board pointed out, “Government price controls in the U.S. will reduce drug-maker spending on research and development, especially in fields like Alzheimer’s where experimental therapies have met with little success.”

As PhRMA President and CEO Stephen J. Ubl stated, “The research-based biopharmaceutical industry has been working around the clock to develop therapeutics and vaccines to treat and prevent COVID-19. The administration’s proposal is a reckless distraction that impedes our ability to respond to the current pandemic – and those we could face in the future.”

Biopharmaceutical companies have made great progress and are working rapidly to beat COVID-19, but there is still a long road ahead. Now is not the time to pursue policies that jeopardize medical innovation and threaten the hope of patients who need better treatments and cures. President Trump should reconsider whether his executive orders are in the best interest of Americans.


Nicole Longo Nicole is director of public affairs at PhRMA focusing on Medicare, 340B, importation and more. She previously worked for a D.C.-based public affairs firm where she assisted a wide range of clients with communications efforts on everything from trade policy to agriculture policy to health care policy. Outside the office, Nicole can be found trying new restaurants (usually Italian), taking an occasional barre class and cheering on the Cincinnati Bengals.