Public opinion may be against the pharmaceutical companies. And, Democrats in Congress, along with some Republicans, including President Trump, are railing against the high price of drugs. But, an article in Stat, explains that pharmaceutical companies are still winning in Washington.
The pharmaceutical companies deploy hundreds of lobbyists to ensure that Senators and Congressmen do not introduce bills that put their profits at risk. Most recently, they stopped a Republican senator from pushing out a bill that would have restricted their intellectual property rights. They also were successful at getting the Trump administration to do an about face on its proposal to have drug companies post drug prices on their television ads.
So far, the drug companies have thwarted all initiatives that would reduce their profits and lower drug costs. The President and Congress are lily-livered when it comes to taking on Pharma on behalf of Americans.
The only reason Pharma has power to set prices sky-high is because of Congressional legislation, be it granting pharmaceutical companies long patents on their new drugs or not allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, and not allowing drug importation. When it comes to prescription drugs, Congress has messed with the free market in favor of industry and against Americans in a multitude of ways.
Most federal drug legislation that protects Pharma’s interests is said to promote innovation. But, drug innovation in its current form–largely new versions of the same money-making drugs–is a red herring. All companies need to innovate, but they also need to compete based on price and quality. However, Congress does not require drug companies to compete based on the value of the drugs they deliver. It does not allow for meaningful competition. Other countries insist on independent panels to evaluate whether new drugs to market actually improve health outcomes; they won’t pay for drugs or won’t pay more for new drugs that do not improve health outcomes.
More likely, campaign contributions play a far larger role in ensuring the pharmaceutical industry does well by Congress than innovation. Lawmakers must worry that if they push legislation that hurts pharmaceutical company profits, when they are up for reelection, the pharmaceutical industry will support their opponents. We need campaign finance reform.
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