Drugmakers for Health Reform

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For years, many politicians — a large number of them Democrats — have decried the influence of pharmaceutical companies on health-care policy and denounced them collectively as a special interest group. Now, it seems, their relationship with the industry has become more friendly.

As the debate over health-care reform heats up this summer — sometimes reaching an especially fierce level — the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the industry’s main lobbying group, has authorized spending $150 million on television advertisements to support the Democrats’ reform proposals. According to an Associated Press article, for comparison, Senator John McCain spent $84 million on his fall general election campaign for president last year. The PhRMA’s biggest advertising push is set to begin around Labor Day.

According to some speculation, the industry’s support for reform is based on the expectation that if legislation extends prescription drug coverage to more Americans, more prescriptions will be filled and profits will increase. But there are also suspicions that an agreement between PhRMA and the Obama administration announced a few weeks ago — that the industry would cut $80 billion in drug costs over 10 years — is a sign that the industry expects no further threats to its profits from Congress in return for supporting reform efforts. Many Democrats in Congress have expressed support, for example, for allowing Medicare to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies to lower the program’s drug costs, but it is not clear whether any such provision will be included in health-care reform legislation .

What do you think — is it appropriate for leaders in Congress or for the White House to negotiate with industry lobbyists? Should pharmaceutical companies have a say in what kind of health-care reform Congress passes? Is it a good thing for companies to agree to concessions, or is this the wrong approach to reform? Should lobbyists be able to play the role they currently do in Washington? Leave a comment below!

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