While the rest of the stock market is doing well in the wake of the election of billionaire Donald Trump, shareholders are punishing the health care and pharmaceutical sector as stock values for those companies have been seeing serious declines. Part of it is rooted in uncertainty as to the fate of health care policy under the new Administration (Trump at first stated that he would repeal the Affordable Care Act, but has now backed down on some provisions of it). However, another factor lies in some high-profile failures involving clinical trials of new prescription drugs.

Two companies – Juno Therapeutics and Eli Lilly – have seen their stocks plummet in value after failed clinical trials. Shares of the former fell by 33% after two patient deaths during the Phase II clinical trial of a new cancer drug, identified as JCAR015. That trial has been delayed after two subjects succumbed to cerebral edema (a breakdown of the blood-brain barrier, resulting in excess fluid buildup in the skull). So far, five patients have died in the course of the trials. JCAR015 has been developed to treat cancer by activating the patient’s own immune system. However, there have been numerous difficulties during the trials.

At the same time, shares of Eli Lilly dropped by nearly 14% after the failure of its new product, solanezumab. This drug was designed to slow the rate of cognitive decline in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s-related dementia. While this was a major disappointment for both the company (Eli Lilly was hoping for a $5 billion payday from sales of the drugs) as well as patients hoping for some relief, Eli Lilly CEO John Lechleiter says there are five other drugs currently in various stages of development.  In the meantime, it will take several months to determine what happened in the solanezumab trials.

Other pharmaceutical industry players that have suffered in recent days include Pfizer (down almost .80%), Johnson & Johnson (facing numerous lawsuits over talcum powder, Xarelto, Risperdal, pelvic meshes, power morcellators and more – down over .40%) and AbbVie (which has been sued over testosterone replacement drugs, falling over 1.9%).

It is likely that the health care and pharmaceutical industry will recover, in no small part to that likelihood that the Trump Administration will take a “hands off” approach to the industry and its abusive price gouging while making it even easier to push dangerous drugs through for fast FDA approval. In the meantime, those companies are still subject to the same market forces as those in other industries.

SHARE
K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.