Big Pharma opens its wallet and old playbook to block drug pricing reform

WASHINGTON, DC — Big Pharma is opening its wallet and pulling out the same old scare tactics to block a proposal that would lower drug prices in Medicare Part B. Under a draft proposal from the Department of Health and Human Services, Medicare would pay only 26 percent more than other wealthy countries for drugs administered by physicians or in hospital settings instead of the 80 percent more it pays today. But before public comments have been filed, special interest groups and drug company lobbyists are mounting an effort to kill the proposed reforms. A Big Pharma front group is bankrolling a $1 million ad campaign to falsely smear proposed Part B changes. The claims in the ads are lies — pure and simple. Patients For Affordable Drugs NOW will be sending letters to radio stations requesting that they cease airing these misleading ads immediately.
 
BIG PHARMA SPENDING TO KILL A MEDICARE PART B CHANGE
 
Radio ads: A Pharma-funded front group secretly bought $998,884 in radio ads across the country. The ads encourage residents to call Senators and tell them to oppose the Part B proposal. See a list of the ad rates and stations running the spot here and here, and listen to the ad here.
 
Digital Ads: The drug industry’s lobbying arm, PhRMA, is blanketing Washington health publications in an attempt to mislead policymakers and the public. Click here to view the PhRMA-sponsored ads.
 
New Web Pages: PhRMA’s misleading campaign includes a raft of blogs packed with inaccurate information that suggests patient care would be under threat if drug prices are lowered in the Medicare program.
 
AstroTurf Tactics: A coalition of hundreds of so-called patient advocacy groups entangled with Big Pharma interests sent a misleading letter to Congressional leadership. Read the letter here. 
 
MYTH vs FACT 
 
Blog posts and advertisements by Big Pharma contain a multitude of falsehoods, misleading statements, and outright lies. Here are a few:
 
Big Pharma Myth: Changes to Medicare Part B “threaten patient access to treatment options and care.”
Fact: As an organization that represents patients who are kept alive by Part B drugs, we are outraged that Big Pharma claims the proposal would hinder patient access. Under this proposal, Medicare would pay only 26 percent more than other wealthy countries, down from the current average of 80 percent more. This move would increase access to lifesaving drugs by bringing U.S. prices more in line with other wealthy nations. There is no evidence this proposed Part B demonstration would impact patient access to drugs unless drug corporations withhold drugs from patients.

Big Pharma Myth: The system works fine just the way it is and the government should not “replace a market-based system with government price setting.”
Fact: The system is broken. Doctors who administer Medicare Part B drugs are incentivized to choose higher-priced medications because they benefit from the reimbursement structure in the Medicare program. Patients are forgoing medication because they cannot afford the drugs. Medicare already sets the prices for these drugs –– it is the average sales price plus 6 percent, which is 80 percent higher than what people pay in other wealthy nations.
 
Big Pharma Myth: The Part B demonstration will “weaken incentives for the development of new treatments for serious, life-threatening diseases.”
Fact: Nine out of 10 big pharmaceutical companies spend more on advertising and marketing than on research. Taxpayers foot the bill for basic science that leads to new drugs through the $37 billion spent by the National Institutes of Health. According to HHS, the proposed Medicare changes could reduce drug company R&D spending by less than one percent. We can have both innovation and lower prescription drug prices.

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