Big Pharma floods Conservative House Democrats with gushing ads
A Big Pharma-funded black money group is funding ads stimulating conservative House Democrats to try to weaken the party’s plan to allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices. Additionally, a separate foundation funded by the pharmaceutical industry is suddenly sponsoring newspaper ads thanking one of the Democrats for his work on prescription drug policy.
The new ad campaigns highlight the efforts the pharmaceutical industry is prepared to make to derail legislation that could hurt its bottom line. If Big Pharma’s efforts are successful, it will prevent the government from saving tens of billions a year and stop healthcare reforms that would cut the prices of expensive drugs by more than 50%.
Last week, the Washington-based nonprofit Center Forward began running digital ads touting six Democratic lawmakers trying to replace the long-promised prescription drug price bill with much lower provisions. : Representatives Scott Peters (CA), Kurt Schrader (OR), Kathleen Rice (NY), Stephanie Murphy (FL), Lou Correa (CA) and Josh Gottheimer (NJ).
Four of the Democrats backed by the ads – Peters, Schrader, Rice and Murphy – recently used their committee positions to try to block House leaders from including drug pricing legislation in the $ 3.5 trillion reconciliation program of party dollars. As House Democrats have kept Measuring drug prices in their reconciliation bill so far, Democrats currently only have a four-seat majority in the House, so they can only afford to lose three votes on the package.
Center Forward, which says its mission is “to give centrist allies the information they need to craft common sense solutions,” is heavily funded by Big Pharma. Washington’s leading pharmaceutical lobby, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), donated $ 4.5 million to Center Forward between 2016 and 2019, representing a quarter of its revenue, according to tax records.
According to AdImpact data, Center Forward separately spent approximately $ 600,000 on TV and radio ads promoting Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). The group’s pro-Sinema ad campaign began days before she told the White House she did not support the Democratic leaders ‘Medicare drug negotiation plan or Peters’ more limited proposal. The Senate is split at fifty-fifty, so Sinema’s opposition would effectively kill him.
The six Democratic lawmakers have raised a total of $ 2.2 million from donors in the pharmaceutical and health-care industries over their careers, according to OpenSecrets, while Sinema has raised more than $ 500,000. Peters is the biggest recipient of the pharmaceutical industry’s money in the House so far this year.
The House Democrats’ drug pricing provision is based on HR 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Drug Cost Reduction Act, and would allow Medicare to use its wholesale purchasing power to negotiate deals. lower prices for prescription drugs. According to the Congressional Budget Office, HR 3’s drug pricing provision would save the government $ 456 billion over ten years and “reduce prices by 57 to 75 percent from current prices” for various drugs.
Correa, Gottheimer, Murphy, Peters, Rice and Schrader all voted yes on HR 3 in 2019, when it passed the House without opposition in the Democratic caucus.
Now Murphy, who co-chairs the conservative Blue Dog Coalition, along with Peters, Rice and Schrader have all voted against the measure in committee. Instead, lawmakers, along with Correa and Gottheimer, are pushing for a significantly weaker proposal.
The Democratic leaders’ drug pricing measure would allow Medicare to negotiate the prices of twenty-five high-priced drugs in the first year of implementation, and fifty drugs in subsequent years. The Peters legislation would only allow Medicare to negotiate the prices of older drugs that have lost their exclusivity rights but do not have generic competition.
Peters recently defended his proposal in a meeting with voters, saying it would generate $ 200 billion in savings “using pharmaceutical profits.” He warned that the Democrats’ plan to recoup $ 450 billion in profits from pharmaceutical companies over a decade would destroy the industry. In reality, this would only affect a fraction of the inflated profits of pharmaceutical companies.
Schrader told a local TV station: âIf pharma thinks it’s buying a vote, it’s getting a bad deal. This bill which [Peters] and I propose, not only is it dangerous for pharma because it has a chance to pass, but it is more complete and more in-depth.
While Center Forward specifically chose to praise Democrats for supporting an alternative drug pricing measure, their ads don’t actually mention this bill.
Instead, the ads thank lawmakers for working to pass the bipartisan, industry-friendly Senate infrastructure deal.
âWe can all use a little piece of good news, can’t we? This is what Rep Scott Peters delivered to us, âexplains one of the ads. âWork to pass employment and family legislation that prioritizes our economy and our quality of life. It is investing in desperately needed improvements to our infrastructure and transportation systems. And that creates jobs. Well-paying jobs. Here. We know we can always count on Scott Peters to deliver. So thank him and ask him to keep fighting for jobs and families. “
Gottheimer and Schrader were among nine conservative Democrats in the House who pushed Democratic leaders to schedule a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure deal this week.
This was to decouple bipartisan infrastructure legislation from the Democrats’ broader reconciliation spending bill, in the amount of $ 3.5 trillion, intended to fund President Biden’s economic, health and climate agenda.
Progressive lawmakers have threatened to vote against the bipartisan infrastructure bill unless Senate Democrats pass the reconciliation bill first. The Congressional Progressive Caucus has said it has the votes to block the bipartisan deal.
Sinema would now threaten to withdraw both infrastructure measures – the bipartisan one she helped negotiate and the reconciliation package – if House Democrats block or delay the bipartisan bill.
Center Forward is an ostensibly “centrist” political advocacy organization, but it is best understood as a front group for corporate interests. Its board of directors is made up of corporate lobbyists, including lobbyists from PhRMA.
In addition to its substantial funding from PhRMA, Center Forward has received corporate donations from pharmacy giant CVS Health (which owns health insurer Aetna), oil and gas company ConocoPhillips, power company PG&E, as well as Coca-Cola and Facebook. The dark money group also received contributions from the National Restaurant Association, a lobby group for large restaurant chains.
Another group funded by PhRMA bought adverts promoting Peters in a local newspaper.
The Lupus Foundation of America twice ran advertisements in the San Diego Union-Tribune in the last days. (The Daily poster was alerted to the announcements by a subscriber.) The Lupus Foundation of America received $ 1.6 million from PhRMA between 2011 and 2019, according to tax records.
âThanks to Congressman Scott Peters for leading the fight to reduce drug costs for patients,â the ads say. âManaging a disease can be difficult. People with lupus take an average of 8 prescription drugs.