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Big Pharma really doesn’t mind if the government picks winners and losers – so long as it is always the winner.


We took note of two recent POLITICO articles that make very, very clear the reality of what’s going on in Washington DC’s drug pricing debate: Big Pharma really doesn’t mind if the government picks winners and losers – so long as it is always the winner. And as their prices show, when Big Pharma wins, it’s American patients and taxpayers who lose big.

First, there’s a lot of talk in Congress about pharmacy benefit managers and the role they play in the drug supply chain. Lawmakers have cited plenty of reasons for why they want to limit PBMs. But POLITICO’s recent article, “FTC further scrutinizes drug industry middlemen,” makes clear the real reason that some Members of Congress are pushing hard to restrict the work that PBMs do for millions of Americans:

“Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are moving to regulate PBMs this year, spurred by drugmaker arguments that they are to blame for rapid drug price inflation.”

There it is, in black and white: interest in PBMs – and the pharmacy benefits that 255 million Americans depend on – has little to do with actually lowering drug prices. Instead, it has far more to do with the tens of millions of dollars in advertising and lobbying that pharmaceutical manufacturers are pouring out right now to pressure Congress and deflect attention off of the prices they alone set and relentlessly raise – and to hamstring the negotiators lowering those prices.  

Which is why it’s rich to see how Big Pharma responds when they are the target – this time for the high prices they set for new drugs that are developed with public research funds. In response to a proposal in the Senate to study “alternative models for directly funding…biomedical research and development that delink research and development costs from the prices of drugs,” PhRMA released this statement:

“We are deeply concerned about a last-minute insertion calling for a study on replacing critical intellectual property protections and regulatory incentives with a prize program that lets the government pick winners and losers.”

PhRMA, and big drug companies in general, think that they are the ones who ought to be picking winners and losers. Big Pharma’s multi-million-dollar influence budget helps grease the legislative skids, hoping to win them further profits at the expense of patients and taxpayers.

Read more about the high cost of Pharma’s games, and other myths that Pharma spins elsewhere on CAPD’s website.