PhRMA buys politicians and patients lose

SUMMARY: Three House Democrats on a key committee voted against the measure to lower drug prices as PhRMA ramped up its lobbying dollars to buy politicians. “I understand that the pharmaceutical industry owns the Republican Party and that no Republican voted for this bill, but there is no excuse for every Democrat not supporting it,” Sen. Bernie Sanders wrote in a scathing statement.

The legislation would authorize Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies, using lower prices paid in other economically advanced countries as a yardstick. The savings produced would expand Medicare coverage by adding dental, vision, and hearing benefits.

U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon cast one of the key Democratic votes against the drug pricing plan. Schrader, who inherited a fortune from his grandfather, a top executive at pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, has accepted large donations from big pharma during his seven terms in Congress.

According to the Times “, the United States pays higher prices for prescription drugs than any of its peers — about 250 percent of the price paid on average by other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, according to a recent report from the RAND Corporation. And those high costs ripple through the federal budget and the economy, increasing insurance premiums and putting lifesaving medications out of reach for some patients.

The drug industry has spent years donating to political campaigns, lobbying members of Congress, and developing allies in the business community. They are now urgently leveraging those relationships. PhRMA announced a “seven-figure” advertising buy on Wednesday, and published an open letter in several Washington publications, adding to television ads running on national news programs and football broadcasts.

NY Times

But there are trade-offs. The Congressional Budget Office — the same nonpartisan agency that told the House such a policy could save the federal government lots of money — recently released a report indicating that substantial drug price reductions would have corresponding negative effects on the number of new drugs developed in the future.

IMO the drug industry is delaying the inevitable. The Federal government should be negotiating prices with drug companies whose profits remain the highest of all industries. I don’t buy that price controls would hurt innovation either. Technology is introducing new ways to lower clinical trial costs, and many drugs are being developed via biotech acquisitions.

Once again, patients lose, and big corporations win.