Washington Focus

Kamp: Moving forward after the election

Nov. 11, 2016 – Post-election report from Coalition for Healthcare Communication Executive Director John Kamp:

The pollsters and pundits sure got it wrong. As they look back to correct their errors, the new reality of a Trump Administration and a Republican-controlled House and Senate provides some clues to the future of our industry. As our 4As colleagues said yesterday in a note to members, it’s likely that the agenda of President Trump, Speaker Ryan and Senator McConnell will focus on broad issues like national security, immigration, infrastructure and healthcare.

Repealing and replacing Obamacare is certain to be a priority. While biopharma stocks surged yesterday on a decreasing expectation of price controls, the picture for our clients is less clear. A repeal could well mean fewer scripts. Further, candidate Trump, contrary to Republican orthodoxy, favored direct negotiation of government drug purchases and re-importation of cheaper drugs from abroad. Indeed, even closer to home, we and our 4As partners will be watching closely for amendments that affect direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising and its tax deductibility. Remember, criticism of DTC is a bipartisan sport and polls reflect citizen distaste for DTC advertising as well as high drug prices.

Meanwhile, here are three areas where action is most likely:

  1. Taxes, especially the deductibility of marketing costs: Both Trump and leading Republicans campaigned on the need for corporate and individual tax reform, and Trump endorsed the House “Blueprint on Tax Reform” that includes a re-examination of all deductions. Dick O’Brien of the 4As DC office says this this is the first item of business for the advertising community with the new Congress.
  2. 2. Regulation: Likewise the President-elect and Republicans agree that reducing government regulation will be a major priority. While it’s not clear how that may play out at the FDA, experts already suggest that aggressive regulation of privacy by the Federal Communication Commission quickly could be rolled back in the new era.
  3. 3. Supreme Court: The Coalition has taken the First Amendment right of medical manufacturers as a first principle. Although the Supreme Court over the past 35 years has strongly supported commercial speech, recently many of those cases have been decided 5-4 with the now-deceased Justice Scalia casting a deciding vote. The Republican White House and Senate are more likely to appoint and confirm a Justice that supports commercial speech rights. This could have a substantial effect on FDA, particularly on the off-label issue debated Nov. 9-10 at hearings at the FDA.

At next week’s Coalition member meeting in D.C., expert speakers with deep roots in the medical industries will be discussing these and related issues. You can still register for the meeting, starting with dinner on the 15th and continuing the next morning. Send me an email at jkamp@cohealthcom.org for more details and registration.