Carl O’Donnell and Ahmed Aboulenein
(Reuters) – The largest beneficiaries of price reductions by the pharmaceutical industry are the Democratic Party legislators who have been pushing for drug pricing reforms, according to a Reuters analysis.
This industry traditionally donates more to Republicans than it does to Democrats, but this year, around 60% of all campaign donations went to Democrats. The industry has already spent $177million on lobbying in 2020 and campaign donations 2021.
Nonprofit political action commissions (PACs), run by Pfizer Inc (NYSE 🙂 Amgen Inc According to OpenSecrets data on political spending, the Center for Responsive Politics was among the top donors.
Drug makers are trying to block legislation that would allow the U.S. government to negotiate prescription drug prices. U.S. law currently prohibits government Medicare from directly negotiating drug prices.
Many of those who are opposed to the House’s ambitious bill on drug reduction have been among the largest recipients of lobbying money from drug manufacturers.
The Senators Kyrsten Silenza of Arizona and Robert Menendez from New Jersey are among them. Representative Scott Peters is in California. OpenSecrets data covers industry donations up to September 2021. This year, the group received approximately $1 million in industry donations for pharmaceuticals and other health products.
Sinema spokesperson didn’t respond to my request for comment, however she said that Senator Sinema supports keeping drugs affordable for patients.
Peters and Menendez said that the donations didn’t influence their opinions. All three said they are opposed to The Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which is sponsored by Democrats in the House of Representatives and also known as H.R.3.
Peters and Menendez advocated alternative, scaled back drug pricing reforms. This would allow Medicare to negotiate drug costs but result in significantly lower savings.
Frank Pallone from New Jersey was a congressman who voted for H.R.3.
Sinema was a campaigner in 2018 for lower drug prices and told the White House that she opposed Medicare being able to negotiate these. According to OpenSecrets data, she received approximately $466,000 in the 2021 from the industry.
OpenSecrets data shows that Peters was the highest recipient of funds from the pharmaceutical industry in the House at $99,550. Peters, according to OpenSecrets data, was uninfluenced by lobbying money. He opposed the law that would protect innovation and jobs in the industry and opposed it.
Drugmakers say the Democrats’ proposed drug price overhaul would undermine their ability to develop new medicines, an argument they have used whenever price cuts are discussed by politicians regardless of political party.
PhRMA Chief Executive Steve Ubl declared that the future for patients is less bright under Congress’ current pricing plan. He made this statement August in reference to proposed legislation. PhRMA refused to discuss the donation to Democratic key opponents to the bill.
It is a rare exception that the United States does not negotiate drug prices with its manufacturers.
Amgen didn’t immediately reply to inquiries regarding its donations, and Pfizer also declined comment.
PROSPECTS OF REFORM
Biden, President, has pledged to reduce medicine prices, partly by allowing Medicare to negotiate drug payments for the federal government. Medicare covers Americans 65 years and over.
However, prospects of major reforms to drug pricing have been stalled over the past few weeks due to opposition from centralist Democrats like Sinema or Peters. Eight Democratic staffers confirmed that negotiations are continuing.
According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 83% Americans are in favor of Medicare being able to negotiate the cost of medicine. US spends about $250 billion per year on drugs, more than any other rich country.
Larry Levitt from Kaiser, an economist in health economics said that Congressmembers don’t always share the views and that the pharmaceutical industry is a strong lobbying force.
It is second only to the finance sector in America as the largest industry lobbying organization. The industry donated over $600 million in advance of 2020’s elections.
Pharmaceutical industry spent millions per year trying to influence state and federal policy. According to one source, the current Democratic leadership is causing concern that significant reforms may not be passed. The company has been working harder to provide alternatives like lowering insurance copays. “It has been kind of a mad scramble.”
In the United States, corporations cannot make contributions directly to candidates. However, they are allowed to give money via PACs. Most corporate PACs, including Pfizer’s and Amgen’s, are run by company managers and employees.
Democrats and drug price experts agree that the Lower Drug Costs Now Act would save taxpayers billions each year and have a minimal impact on innovation.
The House Oversight and Reform Committee reported that drug manufacturers have spent more than $50 billion on dividends and share buybacks between 2016 and 2020, compared to research and development.
Lovisa Gustafsson, a healthcare policy analyst at the Commonwealth Fund, a non-profit healthcare advocacy group, said, “There are other ways that we can incentivize innovation, aside from just paying huge margins for pharmaceutical companies.”