The election of President Joe Biden—and his campaign promise to reduce drug prices—was a call to arms for the pharmaceutical industry.
How invested is Big Pharma in protecting its ability to charge enormous prices for its products?
Since 2020, the year Biden moved into the White House, the industry has spent more than $205 million battling to preserve the status quo, an analysis from Accountable.US finds. The figure includes $149 million in lobbying efforts aimed specifically at drug pricing and more than $57 million in television, cable, radio and social media ads opposing Medicare price negotiations.
Last week, when the Senate and House of Representatives voted in favor of the Inflation Reduction Act, part of the legislation included a measure to empower Medicare to set prices for 10 medicines in 2026, with that number increasing to 60 in 2029.
Initially, the government will have the ability to negotiate prices for selected drugs only in Medicare Part D. But by 2028, Part B drugs could also be included. The bill also calls for a cap of $2,000 per patient on out-of-pocket Medicare costs.
“It is a highly unbalanced bill based on empty promises,” PhRMA CEO Steven Ubl said upon its passage through the House on Friday.
Meanwhile, the industry has legal options at its disposal to fight the Inflation Reduction Act.
The bill’s passage was “just the beginning, rather than the end, of developments over Medicare drug price negotiation,” Rachel Sachs, a law professor at the Washington University in St. Louis, wrote in a recent HealthAffairs summary.
Propelling those efforts will be PhRMA and the industry’s largest companies who figure to lose the most if the measures are ultimately enacted.
The $147 million figure for lobbying efforts includes only PhRMA, which has spent $63.2 million, and the five biggest spending companies—Pfizer ($23.9 million), Merck ($17.1 million), AbbVie ($16.7 million) and Johnson & Johnson and Eli Lilly ($13.9 million each), according to the analysis.