Drug industry executives don’t get it: They’re not supposed to be the bad guys.
That was the feeling that seemed to permeate the annual meeting of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which gathered here this week amid withering scrutiny from politicians and the public.
The blame was spread around. Political candidates don’t understand how drug prices work. Neither does the public. The media isn’t helping, of course, focusing on outlandish characters like Martin Shkreli who don’t represent the bulk of a $300 billion industry.
“The headlines don’t tell the full story,” said Kenneth Frazier, Merck CEO and chair of PhRMA’s board, said to open the meeting Wednesday.
Stephen Ubl, PhRMA’s new president and CEO, was even more blunt. He alluded to a tweet from Hillary Clinton, announcing a forthcoming plan to combat price-gouging for medications. Some analysts blamed the tweet for a $132 billion loss in biotech investment.
Ubl was indignant.
“As we all know, the debate is largely myopic and misinformed,” he said. “The debate also ignores the value our products bring to patients, the health care system and the broader economy.”
“You wouldn’t know it from the headlines,” Ubl added. “The value is barely a footnote in these stories.”