Drug-price outcry threatens to derail reform

Pharma is once again at the epicenter of a battle over healthcare reform. Already resentful of the $80 billion cost-cutting deal the White House and Senate struck with drugmakers, House members got more ammo yesterday from the much-ballyhooed drug-price survey that showed pharma raising prices an average of 8.9 percent. 

Now, some are calling for the president to "put drugmakers in their place," as the San Jose Mercury News writes. Certain senators are balking, working on a measure that would allow consumer to re-import lower-priced meds from other countries, McClatchy News reports. Other lawmakers are pushing for a shorter period of exclusivity on biologic drugs that would allow cheaper generics to hit the market sooner, cutting into branded drugmakers' revenues for some of their most expensive meds.

But as we reported yesterday, drugmakers are already striking back in the House. And they're sharpening their swords for a pitched battle in the Senate, hoping that by influencing the Senate version of reform, they'll have a better shot at a friendlier bill coming out of conference committee. The strategy, McClatchy says: Targeting lawmakers from states where drugmakers are among the biggest employers. Think New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Indiana.

Pharma has a lot of experience pounding the "innovation-will-suffer drum," so expect to hear plenty about how deep drug-price cuts would stifle R&D and hurt patients. And pharma has spent plenty over the past couple of years to make sure their drumbeat is heard on the Hill. Contributions to lawmakers and spending on lobbying has run to the tens of millions. ""The pharmaceutical industry has a lot of clout and a lot of friends," Sen. Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat told McClatchy. "They fight back pretty hard."

- read the story from McClatchy
- see PhRMA's statement on the drug-price report
- get the Mercury-News editorial