PhRMA gets smacked down on social media

  • PhRMA, took to social media to denounce Medicare’s drug pricing negotiation list.
  • Twitter users pointed out their hypocrisy quickly, saying the drug companies are also single entities that arbitrarily set medicine prices.
  • They are railing against a policy that more than 80% of Americans agree with … that’s both Democrats and Republicans. So if you have that level of unity on an issue and we are this divided as a country on a partisan basis, that tells you something.

The Internet, and social media, give people a voice, and they’re using their voices to stick it to PhRMA, the lobbying arm of pharma companies.

Pharmaceutical companies have filed more than a half-dozen lawsuits in various districts around the country in what some analysts say is an attempt to fast-track the issue to the US Supreme Court. And more are expected. The lawsuits allege the powers granted to Medicare by the Inflation Reduction Act to negotiate prices of the most expensive single-source drugs are unconstitutional.

Price controls for health care that exist in other wealthy countries are a big reason those countries spend on average less than half per person on care compared with the United States.

However, price controls are controversial and in the current era can be painted as big government. “Negotiation” sounds less harsh.

Unlike what typically happens in other countries, the I.R.A. will not control the prices at which drugs are sold in the United States. There are no limits on what drugmakers can charge private insurers and employers, or on the “sticker” prices uninsured patients pay at the pharmacy.

The I.R.A. instead sets in motion a negotiation process between the federal government and pharmaceutical companies to determine only what Medicare will pay for a subset of drugs. The government is acting here as an intelligent purchaser — like a business, not a regulator.

Beyond the specific legal issues at play here, some additional context is important.

In Medicare’s role as a purchaser of health care, drugs have been the exception, with no government leverage over prices. For decades, Medicare has set prices for hospital and physician services. In fact, it was President Ronald Reagan who imposed constraints on Medicare’s hospital rates.

Medicare is a significant purchaser of health care, but it is only one of many purchasers. Medicare represents 32 percent of the market for retail prescription drugs, while private insurers make up 40 percent. Drugmakers are not required to sell their products to Medicare, and there are no limits on the prices they can charge to private insurers.

According to KFF polling, 81 percent of the American public favors negotiation of drug prices in Medicare, with support spanning the political spectrum. Hence, it’s no surprise that Democrats see this as a winning political issue in the 2024 election.

The PhRMA tweet has more than 1.4 million views and thousands of comments. X/Twitter users were quick to point out the hypocrisy of the post, saying the drug companies are also single entities that arbitrarily set medicine prices.

“As opposed to the current system, where you arbitrarily set medicine prices high enough to satisfy your shareholders and pay your CEOs obscene salaries?” wrote @joekatz45.

Another user, @DrMattDSW, wrote, “lmao, when did we ever have input into our (costly) Rx prices? Never. We’ve never had input. And considering how much research is funded by the government (which means through our tax dollars), I am more than okay with lower prices for everyone. Get bent.”

Michael Sinha, assistant law professor at St. Louis University of Law, agreed. He said that though the Congressional Budget Office estimates show a low impact on innovation and drug R&D, the industry is still looking to rally support to overturn the IRA if the upcoming election gives it a favorable political environment.