The optimism that characterized the first two days of the conference came to a screeching halt on Wednesday as the third day of the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference was confronted with comments on drug pricing from President-elect Donald Trump.
In a morning press conference, Trump said pharmaceutical companies are "getting away with murder" for what they charge for medicines and that he is going to push for drug price negotiation. The statements sent the industry into a tailspin, pushing stocks down.
Trump's comments are in stark contrast to the message that the industry has been trying to push out over the last two years, namely, that innovation costs money, but saves lives. More of those ads are expected to roll out shortly.
The theme of drug pricing continued throughout the day with Mylan CEO Heather Bresch – someone who has been criticized harshly for pricing increases to EpiPen – saying the industry needs to make fundamental changes to both the pricing model and their way of doing business.
Another issue that has been plaguing the biopharma industry has been that of gender diversity. The controversy hit a fever pitch last year at this time when one organization hired female models to mix and mingle at its J.P. Morgan cocktail reception in order to improve the male/female ratio. Backlash was immediate and spurred the conversation on how to fix the problem of too few women in biopharma board rooms.
One hundred life science industry leaders wrote an open letter to the industry on Jan. 11 to provide best practices for improving gender diversity.
The Street writer Adam Feuerstein was joined by several other journalists to conduct a post mortem of the conference at the Biotech Showcase that was hosted by analyst Barbara Ryan. All participants were in agreement that a resounding sentiment heard from executives is that they aren't quite inline with industry messaging on drug pricing.
Feuerstein and company noted that things to watch in 2017 will be which immuno-oncology combination trials are successful, gene therapies and the FDA.
As the conference winds down, some executives are already fleeing the city, while others are trying to get in last minute meetings.