Donald Trump Just Sent Drug Stocks Tumbling—Again

Mar 21, 2017

The pharmaceutical industry is seeing red, courtesy of President Donald Trump—but less of it than usual.

Major biotech stock indices like the NASDAQ Biotechnology Index and the S&P Biotech ETF fell anywhere from 1.8% to 3.5% in early Tuesday trading following the president's latest comments slamming high drug prices and pledging to keep runaway biopharma gouging in check.

"Once healthcare reform is done and Obamacare has been repealed, it will be time to get to work on medicine, bringing down the cost of medicine by having a fair and competitive bidding process. Some people think that's just as important as healthcare," said Trump during a speech in Louisville, Kentucky Monday night.

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Trump went on to call the U.S. medicine prices "outrageous," especially when compared to identical products in other countries. "Why? You know why? Campaign contributions. Who knows. But somebody's getting very rich. Medicine prices will be coming down. Way, way, way down," he said.

This has become a common refrain with Trump, who has demanded lower drug prices in the U.S. in exchange for laxer Food and Drug Administration regulations and lower corporate taxes. But while a more-than-3% drop in a big ETF is notable, many of the largest biotech and pharma companies aren't suffering as big losses this time around. Consider: big pharma companies shed some $25 billion in market value in 20 minutes during Trump's January press conference when he said the industry is "getting away with murder" on drug prices. Major firms like Celgene, AbbVie, and Bristol-Myers Squibb fell anywhere from 3.5% to 5.5% then; on Tuesday, they saw far more modest declines ranging from 0.6% to 1.5%.

So it's possible that some Wall Street investors are beginning to take Trump's rhetoric with a grain of salt. However, if he were to endorse specific, tangible legislation like that presented to him by Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings earlier this month —which Trump allegedly has signaled early support for —the market effects could become far more pronounced.

Trump has previously promoted direct drug price negotiations with Medicare and the importation of cheaper medicines from overseas.

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