Donald Trump has unleashed on a drug company which has manufactured a promising Covid-19 vaccine, saying the company sabotaged his campaign because of his policies.
On Friday (local time), Trump called a press conference where he announced his administration’s changes to regulations that could lower the prices Americans pay for many prescription drugs.
Following the press conference, a reporter is heard asking the president if he is being a “sore loser” as he exits the stage.
“Mr President, are you being a sore loser?” a journalist is heard yelling.
Another reporter, Playboy’s White House reporter Brian J. Karem, posted a video of himself trying to ask the president a question as he walks out the press conference.
“You lost the election. When will you admit you lost the election?” he says in the footage as other journalists in the room are heard asking Trump other questions.
Here was what the White House Briefing Room sounded like as President Trump and other administration officials left without taking questions.
Among them, you can hear @Weijia Jiang (I think) channel Jim @Acosta by shouting at Trump, wondering whether he's "being a sore loser" pic.twitter.com/fWKPs41ivo
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) November 20, 2020
— Brian J. Karem (@BrianKarem) November 20, 2020
‘You wouldn't have a vaccine if it weren't for me,’ Trump says
During the press conference, Trump took the time to accuse Pfizer, the pharmaceutical company which announced a vaccine for Covid-19, of sabotaging his campaign.
He started off by saying Pfizer and other Big Pharma companies ran “millions and millions of dollars” in ads against Trump’s re-election and said there would be no vaccine for the coronavirus if it weren’t for him due to what he “forced” the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to do.
“I've never seen anything quite like it because I told them I'm gonna have to do this, you know, I was put here to do a job and Pfizer and others are way ahead on vaccines, you wouldn't have a vaccine if it weren't for me for another four years because FDA would have never been able to do what they did,” he said.
Pfizer announced the Covid-19 vaccine the company had produced was 90 per cent effective just days after people cast their ballots in the 2020 election.
Trump insinuated this was strategic because ‘Big Pharma’ companies did not like what he was doing.
“Pfizer and others even decided to not assess the results of their vaccine, in other words, not come out with a vaccine, until just after the election,” Trump said.
“That’s because of what I did with favoured nations and these other elements. Instead of their original plan to assess the data in October.
“So they were going to come out in October, but they decided to delay it because of what I’m doing, which is fine with me because frankly this is just a very big thing.”
He said drug companies “don't like me too much” as he announced the new regulations and said Big Pharma “ and their army of lawyers, lobbyists and bought-and-paid-for politicians” had “abused” Americans.
“But I’ve been loyal to the special interests, I’ve been loyal to our patients and our people that need drugs, prescription drugs, and devoted myself to completely fighting for the American people, you see that,” Trump said.
“And this is not an easy thing to do.”
There are two rules Trump announced during the press conference.
One called the “most favoured nations approach” would tie what Medicare pays for medications administered in a doctor's office to the lowest price paid among a group of other economically advanced countries.
It is adamantly opposed by critics aligned with the pharmaceutical industry, who liken it to socialism.
The administration estimates it could save US$28 billion (A$38 billion) over seven years for Medicare recipients through lower co-pays. It would take effect January 1.
The second would require drugmakers, for brand-name pharmacy medications, to give Medicare enrolees rebates that now go to insurers and middlemen called pharmacy benefit managers.
Insurers that deliver Medicare's "Part D" prescription benefit say that would raise premiums.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates it would increase taxpayer costs by US$177 billion (A$242 billion) over 10 years.
The Trump administration disputes that and says its rule could potentially result in 30 per cent savings for patients. It would take effect January 1, 2022.
Trump lost the 2020 election and Joe Biden will assume office next January, though Trump has refused to concede.
Due to the fact Trump was not reelected, there is no certainty as to whether the new rules will be accepted by Joe Biden’s administration or if they will withstand legal challenges by pharmaceutical industry.
The industry is considering “all options to stop this reckless attack on the companies working around the clock to beat COVID-19”, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America said in a statement.
Trump came into office accusing pharmaceutical companies of "getting away with murder" and complaining that other countries whose governments set drug prices were taking advantage of Americans.
As a candidate in 2016, Trump advocated for Medicare to negotiate prices. As president, he dropped that idea, objected to by most Republicans. Instead Trump began pursuing changes through regulations.
He also backed a bipartisan Senate bill that would have capped what Medicare recipients with high bills pay for medications, while generally limiting price increases.
Ambitious in scope, the legislation from Senators Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, and Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, did not get a full Senate vote.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, a former drug company executive, said the rules would "break this model where patients suffer, where prices increase every year", while corporate insiders enrich themselves.
With Associated Press
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