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Novartis gains White House support after paying $1.2 million to Michael Cohen

Written by Diane Archer

Despite campaign claims to rein in prescription drug prices and drain the swamp of corruption in Washington, President Trump appears to have strong and unseemly links to Pharma. Novartis gained White House support for its prescription drug policies after making $1.2 million payment to President Trump’s one-time lawyer Michael Cohen. According to Stat, an investigation by Senate Democrats uncovered emails and other documents revealing that Novartis’ positions on drug pricing, which it shared with Cohen, ended up in Trump’s blueprint on drug prices.

Between 2017 and 2018, Novartis paid Cohen $1.2 million for help connecting to top policymakers. And, Cohen obliged. Novartis misleadingly had suggested it had had only one “communication” with Cohen for that fee. In fact, the Senate investigation shows that Novartis had multiple contacts with Cohen and shared with Cohen its proposals for addressing drug costs. At the time, the White House was developing its list of ideas for addressing drug costs.

Among other things, Novartis wanted value-based pricing and outcomes-based contracting for its $475,000 CAR-T cancer treatment. Novartis felt Medicare should pay for “value” if patients responded to its treatment by the end of the first month. After the revelation that Novartis had paid Cohen for access to the White House, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) canceled its plans to test this so-called “value-based” approach to paying for the drug.

Senator Patty Murray stated: “The more we learn about the arrangement between Michael Cohen and Novartis, the more alarming it appears. The public was rightly concerned to learn President Trump’s close associates are selling access to the Administration and getting million dollar contracts from drug companies.”

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