Pfizer may be fighting the pandemic with its COVID-19 vaccine, but it's waging another sort of battle in Washington, D.C.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, Ph.D., has sent a three-minute video message to employees asking them to resist government drug-pricing negotiations, Politico first reported. Lawmakers are pushing measures that would allow Medicare to negotiate some drug prices, a measure the industry has long resisted, as one way to help pay for President Joe Biden's proposed $3.5 trillion spending package.
In his video to Pfizer staff, Bourla said he's "particularly disappointed" in a drug-pricing plan being discussed by Democrats in the House of Representatives, Politico reports. The bill, HR 3, would allow the government to negotiate prices on certain expensive medicines. While the Congressional Budget Office says it could save $450 billion over a decade, the measure would also reduce the number of new medicines that reach the market, experts say.
Bourla reportedly said the measures will have "little positive impact on patients" at the pharmacy. A Pfizer spokesperson confirmed the existence of the video.
“Pfizer recognizes that we have a responsibility to do our part to reduce drug prices, but we believe that must be done in a way that doesn’t harm innovation, job creation, and, most importantly, the company’s ability to deliver breakthrough healthcare solutions to patients," Pfizer's spokesperson said.
In his video, Bourla also tied the drug-pricing talks to Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine efforts, according to Politico. He told employees that they delivered on the company's push to quickly develop and manufacture pandemic vaccines, and now he's asking them to get educated on the pricing proposals in Washington.
Pfizer is far from alone in resisting government price negotiation. In a recent open letter, Bourla and many other biopharma CEOs warned that such negotiating powers "threaten patients' access to medicines and sacrifice future medical advances."
"We agree with leaders in Washington that Americans need help with their healthcare costs, but these dangerous policy experiments are not the answer," the industry leaders wrote.
Pfizer's spokesperson said the company supports out-of-pocket caps in Medicare Part D, reforms to drug rebates and better biosimilar access.
Lawmakers and others have been discussing potential drug-pricing reform for years, but, with the Biden administration looking to move forward with a $3.5 trillion spending plan, those talks seemed to have gain steam in recent months.
In a recent letter to lawmakers, a group comprising Families USA, Lower Drug Prices Now, Patients for Affordable Drugs and more wrote that Congress has a "unique and time-limited window for crafting meaningful drug pricing reform this year." They called on the government to implement drug-pricing negotiations, install price-hike limits and redesign Medicare Part D to slash costs for beneficiaries and taxpayers.