Dec 11, 2019 - Health

Big Pharma keeps its status quo after USMCA deal

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Pharma didn't get what it wanted on trade, but it's still doing just fine.

The big picture: In this political climate, with this much scrutiny on drug prices, preserving the status quo is an enormous victory for this incredibly powerful industry. And though it failed to win a new victory on trade, the status quo is perfectly intact.

Driving the news: Democrats and the Trump administration have agreed to a new trade pact among the U.S., Mexico and Canada — without protections for brand-name biologic drugs.

  • At the same time, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was able to ward off a rebellion from the left and strike a deal that will likely ensure the passage of her drug-pricing bill, Politico reports.

By the numbers: Enhanced Medicare price negotiation under Pelosi's bill would save the federal government about $456 billion over a decade, the Congressional Budget Office said yesterday.

  • The bill would plow most of that money back into new Medicare benefits.
  • CBO said the bill would likely result in about 8 fewer drugs being developed over the next decade, and roughly 30 drugs in the decade after that.

Yes, but: A House vote is probably as far as this bill is going. And its loss in the trade deal was a failure to win something new — not a loss of something that exists.

The bottom line: It's increasingly likely that pharma will be off the hook until 2021 — and that's an enormous victory for an industry that's been criticized from all sides.

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