Biotech leaders unite against Trump travel ban

The legal battle over President Donald Trump’s travel ban on citizens from seven mainly Muslim countries continues – but biotech leaders have joined to voice their opposition to the policy in the journal Nature.

There was also confusion over Trump’s views on pricing, after his spokesperson said he favoured allowing the state-funded Medicare scheme to negotiate prices with pharma, contrary to comments made at a meeting with pharma leaders.

Yesterday a US appeals court overturned Trump’s attempt to reinstate his ban on travel from countries including Iran and Libya, which had been blocked by a court in Seattle.

It looks likely that Trump will continue to fight the case in a higher court – but biotech leaders said in an open letter that the policy is “misguided” and threatens their industry.

Many of the industry’s talents come from abroad and become Americans, to the benefit of the US, they said. A 2014 study found that 52% of the 69,000 biomedical researchers in the US were foreign-born, according to the letter signed by more than 150 biotech leaders including Jeremy Levin, CEO of Ovid Therapeutics, and former CEO of Teva.

While they supported attempts to fight terrorism, they said the ban is “poorly conceived and implemented,” and has “raised deep fears and concerns across the biotech industry, in which diversity and the free flow of ideas and people have created an American powerhouse of medicine.”

They added that “America is at risk of losing its leadership in one of its most important sectors,” saying the administration has “compromised years of investment” in the industry.

“Scientists based in other countries and employed by our companies are afraid to come to the United States or are cancelling trips. The parents and families of immigrants who live and work in the United States are reluctant to attempt to travel to and from the United States,” they said.

Medicare Price Negotiating

There was also confusion about Trump’s views on pricing after his spokesman, Sean Spicer, said the president supports Medicare drug price negotiations.

This appeared to contradict a stance taken by the president in a meeting with pharma CEOs last week, where Trump seemed to favour a softer approach to tackling the high price of prescription drugs in the US.

State-backed Medicare is prevented from negotiating prices with pharma by law, but according to Spicer the president still favours making the necessary legal changes to allow this to happen.

Spicer told a press conference earlier this week: “The easier way to look at this is to look at what other countries have done: negotiating costs to keep those down.”

His comments sent the Nasdaq Biotechnology index down 0.8%.

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