After months of heated accusations and painstaking negotiations, the White House and the pharmaceutical industry neared agreement late last month on a plan to make good on President Trump’s longstanding promise to lower drug prices.
The drug companies would spend $150 billion to address out-of-pocket consumer costs and would even pick up the bulk of the co-payments that older Americans shoulder in Medicare’s prescription drug program.
Then the agreement collapsed. The breaking point, according to four people familiar with the discussions: Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, insisted the drug makers pay for $100 cash cards that would be mailed to seniors before November — “Trump Cards,” some in the industry called them.
Some of the drugmakers bridled at being party to what they feared would be seen as an 11th-hour political boost for Mr. Trump, the people familiar with the matter said.
“We could not agree to the administration’s plan to issue one-time savings cards right before a presidential election,” said Priscilla VanderVeer, the vice president of public affairs at PhRMA, the industry’s largest trade group. “One-time savings cards will neither provide lasting help, nor advance the fundamental reforms necessary to help seniors better afford their medicines.”
For two powerful political forces that have often been at odds over the last four years, the prospect of a bargain offered coveted public relations victories. For years, the drugmakers have long been criticized for sky-high, opaque pricing for products that are often far cheaper in other countries. With a deal, the industry would get to project public spiritedness in the midst of a pandemic, while Mr. Trump would be able to deliver an immediate, long-promised benefit to voters over 65, with whom he is faring considerably worse in polls today than he did in 2016.
Now neither side can claim bragging rights.
Mr. Meadows’s gambit illustrates the extent of the last-minute scramble by White House officials to score political victories ahead of November.
With the president’s response to the coronavirus widely criticized, the White House has grasped for other ways to impress voters. In recent days, Mr. Trump has extended a ban on offshore oil drilling off the coast of Southern states, unveiled a multibillion-dollar aid package for hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, some of whose residents have migrated to must-win Florida, announced another $14 billion in aid to farmers and plunged into Middle East peacemaking.
Some officials in the drug industry, though, said they found it mystifying that Mr. Meadows would play what they saw as political hardball with some of the same private-sector companies that Mr. Trump is pressuring to deliver the October surprise he craves the most: a coronavirus vaccine.
“We could conceivably have vaccines being given out by numerous companies, and they’re all world-class companies, they’re fantastic companies,” Mr. Trump told reporters Wednesday, singling out Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Moderna as he contradicted his health care advisers and asserted a vaccine could be widely distributed next month.
There is more at the link above. tRump loves to put his name on things, his branding on the US. Plus he is desperate to have voters think he solved the Covid virus problem, saved the nation, and returned the country to 1949. All of which is just his fantasy. Hugs