A Letter to Trump From Big Pharma That Protests Too Much

TDB's picture

US immigration order strikes against biotech  …  We the undersigned, founders and leaders of biotech companies, write to express our deep concern and opposition to the executive order signed by President Donald Trump on January 27, 2017, barring the entry of citizens from seven countries into the United States.  The United States is the world’s greatest developer of medicines and new inventions to ameliorate and cure intractable diseases, a status achieved through massive investment in private and public companies, academia and R&D. Most importantly, our success has been founded on the creativity and dedication of our most precious resource—our people. -Nature Biotechnology

The biotech (pharmaceutical) industry has written a letter to Donald Trump objecting to his banning of Muslims from seven countries in the Middle East.

The ban is not actually a ban but a closer look at Visa applications, and has already been overturned by the courts, though the President is appealing.

From our point of view, the letter is noteworthy because it is signed by a wide variety of pharmaceutical companies across the US. Many of these companies develop artificial products to take the place of natural ones, and these artificial products have side effects that are often dangerous.

Thus the letter is ironic because it shows how thoroughly the industry has been taken over by groups that attempt to substitute artificial efforts for natural ones.


Many of our colleagues from abroad ultimately become Americans, all to the great benefit of the United States. Indeed, a study found that in 2014, 52% of the 69,000 biomedical researchers in the United States were foreign-born.  The biopharma industry originated in America and is dominated by American companies. US companies employ tenfold more people than European companies.

Over the past decade, a total of $98.4 billion was invested in US emerging therapeutic companies through venture capital, follow-on public offerings and initial public offerings. US companies spent over $138 billion on upfront payments for in-licensing assets or acquiring global R&D-stage emerging companies. Larger US biopharma companies spent $161.7 billion over the past ten years on market-stage acquisitions. 

The United States has led the world in medicine production for decades, not only because of its ability to finance drug discovery, but also because, more than any other country, the United States represents opportunity regardless of borders, gender, race, sexual orientation or political cast. This has enabled our industry to attract the best talent, wherever it is found. This aspect of our industry is a core reason the United States has built its unique strength in biopharmaceuticals.

To conflate a political issue with an industrial stance attempts to buttress the industry by supporting it in ways not directly related to the goods it produces. We are being asked to endorse the industry based not on its products but on the people it employs and the amount of money it raises.

The letter continues by calling the industry a “natural treasure” and then claims that Trump has compromised it.  Colleagues on visas, it writes, are fearful and “uncertain of their status.” Scientists are canceling trips to the US. While immigrants to the US  are reluctant to travel at all.

This is because of a “ban ”that includes seven countries which “global employees” interpret as much more general. These employees, we are told, believe the underlying message is that “America is no longer welcoming of any immigrants, whatsoever.”

They fear being discredited because of their religion and fear deportation as well. They now have deep concerns that the professional freedoms that have “created an American powerhouse of medicine” are going to be reduced or removed.

America is thus in danger of losing control of one of its most important business sectors and will suffer harm to smaller companies and startups and slow the fight against disease.

America must remain “the world’s greatest engine of innovation, as well as the beacon of liberty it has been for more than 200 years.”

For us the letter reads more like a PR statement than a factual declaration of something that has gone wrong. This is an industry based entirely on a constitutional clause that reaffirms people cannot patent plants. If people could patent plants, the industry wouldn’t even exist. Instead people would just go down to South America and claim plants giving rise to natural cures.

As it is now, there are plenty of pharmaceutical companies in South America, especially in the Amazon. And indeed they are looking for plants. But they take these plants home and attempt to mimic their healthful affects artificially.

They could simply replant them and resell them. But they wouldn’t make nearly so much money.

The industry is huge, it’s true. But it is based on a constitutional anomaly rather than a necessity. As a result, it is always on the lookout for ways to generate additional positive PR. The letter is one more way to do this.

It is not so much a warning to Trump as a declaration of its own aggrandizement as a “natural treasure.” One can easily distrust the basic thrust of the letter and even its reason for being.

Conclusion: The letter restates just how valuable the industry is to the United States. As such it “doth protest too much.”

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nah's picture

Doctor patient


Drug companies, health insurance, immigration from Muslim majority nations


can only help "health care"

Insurrector's picture

As with all markets, regulatory control has advantages and disadvantages.

Yes, you can't patent plants, which is a good thing.  However, on the flip side, the cost of the typical clinical trial is somewhere between $30M and $150M - estimates vary depending on a number of factors.

So because you can't patent a plant, and you can't make medical claims about any supplement without a clinical trial, there is no incentive for private companies to conduct a clinical trial on a supplement thay cannot patent.

Although at odds with less government, this is where the public sector could help out.  Funding research on plant-derived supplements could break this stalemate.  Maybe funnel some FDA funds into a proactive research arm instead of a strictly regulatory service?

techpriest's picture

I think a better approach would be to remove the FDA as gatekeeper.

Failing that, $3 per American is $1 billion - surely it is possible to put a research foundation together.

Grandad Grumps's picture

Maybe if Big Pharma was not pumping out children full of THEIR toxic vaccines that gave our kids brain damage a higher percentage of their researchers would come from the US.

Insurrector's picture

Grandad -

Thanks to vaccines, polio is virtually nonexistent.

Fathead Slim's picture
Fathead Slim (not verified) Insurrector Feb 8, 2017 6:48 PM

Bullshit. Too bad that there's no vaccine for your condition: libtard anencephalitis.

L Bean's picture

Grandad is dead right. Anyway it'll become obvious enough, eventually. 

Thanks to vaccines, autoimmune disease is also a new norm.

techpriest's picture

Don't forget the modified food starch and HFCS.

donomiller's picture

Bye bye Pharma....

RichardParker's picture

Big Pharma?

Fuck 'em.

No more H-1Bs.  BWAHAHAHAHAHA... 

For years, hey've been firing Americans and replacing them with cheaper H-1Bs while they off shore as much of their R & D and manufacturing as they can to india and China. 

For years, these motherfuckers have been financially ass raping the American people (espcially medicare seniors) on pricing.


Guess what? There's a new sherriff in town.  BWAHAHAHAHAHA... 

hooligan2009's picture

so how many employees of big pharms from these 7 countries are there? 1, 10, 100 and how many are employed in jobs that could have been done by Americans, whether these Americans are LBBGTQQIA or Deplorables?

while we are on the topic of big pharma - let's go to drug prices. what is the justificaton for setting an escalalting price at a time when costs to produce drugs are going down (no research required, economies of scale in process at maximum).

we need a list of the major prescribed drugs, their prices, number of years being prescribed, volume prescribed, alternaitves and alternatives costs, AND prices in europe, canada, japan FOR THE SAME DRUGS with the same stats.

one can't help get the feeling that if these drug companies ran a water bottling plant that was a monopoly supplier of water to a community of 100,000 that the price of the water would be 5,000 bucks a gallon.

these guys pay themselves tens of millions of dollars to engage in a cartel that rips of people that are unable to defend themselves by seeking an alternative.

RichardParker's picture

Speaking of LBBGTQQIA...

These are the same MFers that paid LGBT Groups and Others to Oppose California Drug-Price Ballot Measure.


hooligan2009's picture

it's just nucking futs


and this

From 2010 to 2015, the price of Lantus (made by Sanofi) went up by 168 percent; the price of Levemir (made by Novo Nordisk) rose by 169 percent; and the price of Humulin R U-500 (made by Eli Lilly) soared by 325 percent.


i don't understand how politicians of any il can let this stand. i guess it's down to trump to get the ball rolling in a "price gouging by pharma" legislature or is this ongoing in congress anyway.

in my example, the price of water could be discounted by 40% to 3,000 bucks a gallon and the supplier would claim it was the "good guy" - of course the price SHOUD BE CLOSE TO ZERO.

Radical Pragmatist's picture

The disingenous missives from Crony Pharma and Crony IT have absolutely NOTHING to do with the Trumps' short term immigration ban.  They couldn't give a rat's patoot about downtrodden refugees from the Middle East.

For the Tech Cronies, it's all about ONE BIG THING - i.e. cheap H-1B immigrant STEM labor.  The only reason Big Tech is sanctimoniously protesting Trump's decree is because they see that move as the camel's nose under the tent of H-1B restrictions.

See this documentation of the work-force blood bath in Pharma:


Many, many of those victims were American technologists.  As they were being kicked to the curb, H-1B immigrants were often hired to replace them.

As both Crony Big Pharma and Big IT continue to whack TENS OF THOUSANDS of workers, all they can say about immigration is MORE! MORE! MORE"

PoasterToaster's picture
PoasterToaster (not verified) Feb 8, 2017 2:44 PM

Big Pharma should be renamed Big Sociopath.  Of all the corporate sectors in this country it is the most anti-social and devious, putting the "defense industry" and its fear mongering to shame. 

Look at how they managed to give meth to kids on prescriptions in a vast social experiment during a drug war that sends adults to prison for choosing to use that drug.  Nobody bats an eye when they push those drugs onto children, but consenting adults are herded into rape cages.

We have more than just a political problem in this nuthouse.

Voice of insanity's picture

The big question is why the US is not generating the graduates and post-docs this industry needs. Why is it so reliant on foreign people?

Fathead Slim's picture
Fathead Slim (not verified) Voice of insanity Feb 8, 2017 6:52 PM

Could it be that public grade schools turn out graduates who are woefully unready for any science curriculum? That could be why so many students are pursuing worthless degrees in gender studies.

L Bean's picture

Ironically, due to Big Pharma's own great IQ lowering experiment - vaccines from in utero, ad infinitum.

Radical Pragmatist's picture

For three reasons:

  1. Pharma has laid off tens of thousands of scientists over the last 15 years.
  2. Pharma like IT, now has a virulent anti-American citizen hiring bias.  It not only lays off American scientists, it hires H-1Bs as their replacements.  So American students have been dissuaded from STEM disciplines.  I.e., why bust your hump in a tough as nails STEM program when you know you'll be competing with preferred H-1B's who will work as indentured servants for a Green Card?  And not only that, but get canned when you reach middle age?
  3. Moreover, Pharma and IT practice age discrimmination by dumping competent American technologists over 40 and then replacing them shortly thereafter with young H-1B immigrants.  There are thousands of competent American scientists and software developers over 40 who have given up and been forced into crap jobs doing something else.
Bemused Observer's picture

Wow, that is a BIG white space...

Stinkytofu's picture

that's the complete and unabridged list of all the biomedical researchers

who have (or ever will) come to the usa from the "seven muslim contries"