(Bloomberg) — Hillary Clinton may have found the perfect target to show that she’ll be as tough on corporations as her Democratic presidential rival, Bernie Sanders: Big Pharma.
Following up on her tweet last week against “price-gouging” by Turing Pharmaceuticals that sent biotech stocks plummeting, the Democratic front-runner released a hard-hitting television ad on Monday suggesting that CEO Martin Shkreli decided to lower prices after she went after him. In between, she unveiled a proposal to cap out-of-pocket drug expenses, offering tax credits to help families deal with soaring costs, forcing drug manufacturers to invest more on research and development, and obliging companies to invest in the production of generics.
The response from industry has been, to say the least, unenthusiastic.
“Secretary Clinton’s proposal would turn back the clock on medical innovation and halt progress against the diseases that patients fear most,” John Castellani, president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), wrote in a statement last week.
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During a Facebook Q&A on Monday, however, Clinton doubled down on her proposals.
“My plan actually encourages more investment in innovation and research, not less,” Clinton wrote. “So that should be a win-win for businesses and consumers. Biotech companies working on life-saving breakthroughs won’t have anything to fear from my plan. But if you’re price gouging American families and jacking up costs for no good reason, I’m going to hold you accountable.”
Targeting rising drug costs has become an important part of Clinton’s presidential campaign, even as she continues to defend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), offering her a populist issue to keep pace with Sanders’ pursuit of the liberal vote.
Given that a Gallup poll released on Sept. 14 showed that the percentage of Americans with a positive view of the pharmaceutical industry stands at 35 percent, down from 40 percent from the year before, big pharma appears to represent a safe target for Clinton. Overall, the United States spent $374 billion on drugs in 2014, according to IMS Health, up 13 percent from the previous year.
“Pocketbook issues related to health care are a topic that resonates with a lot of Americans,” said Mollyann Brodie, executive director, Public Opinion and Survey Research, the Kaiser family foundation. “So things that include the cost of prescription drugs—health care costs—are certainly a topic that any of the candidates may end up taking on because it will resonate with the American public.”