Pharma lobby launches crusade against Cuomo's 'flawed' drug pricing plan in NY

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently introduced a plan to fight high drug prices, and pharma lobbyists are pushing back.

Pharma has heard enough of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s ideas for lowering drug prices. Just a month after the governor unveiled his plan, the industry’s trade group is rolling out a counteroffensive urging state officials to “Prescribe Real Solutions” instead.

Gov. Cuomo’s plan would create a board to rule on “fair prices” for certain expensive drugs. Then, the state would mandate that Medicaid refuse to pay more than that for those meds.

Cuomo's proposal also factors into private market sales. If a pharma company sold into New York at a higher price than the board’s "fair price," the state would collect a surcharge. That money would then be reallocated “back to the insurance providers to reduce the cost of insurance.”

PhRMA is having none of that. The group’s Prescribe Real Solutions website asks the public to “demand real solutions” from their lawmakers. Cuomo’s plan would “threaten medical research and innovation” in the state, the site says, “while providing no benefits to patients.” The campaign will also use advertising and public events to build a movement against the plan.

The budget proposal could also "undercut" a new $650 million attempt to grow the life sciences industry in New York, PhRMA says.

Despite the pharmaceutical industry's pressure, Cuomo is standing by his plan.

“The Governor is fighting for the middle class and seniors who are getting crushed by out-of-control prescription drug prices, and he makes no apologies for it," spokesperson Rich Azzopardi said in a statement. "When Big Pharma cracks open its wallet to oppose your reforms, you know you’re doing something right.”

John O’Connor, PhRMA’s deputy vice president for state advocacy in New York, maintains that Cuomo's proposal "does nothing to improve patient access to medicines, bring life-saving drugs to the market or create jobs" in the state.

"This is not the time for unworkable proposals that would create new bureaucracies without actually addressing any of the factors that impact the prices paid by patients," O'Connor continued.

Already on Wednesday, New York Health Works, a PhRMA initiative, started tweeting about the campaign.

Cuomo isn't stopping with pharma, however. The governor also wants to see new restrictions for pharmacy benefit managers, which have come under scrutiny amid the heated drug pricing debate in the United States. Disapproval of Cuomo's plan may be one of the few current political fights where PBMs and pharma are on the same side.

The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA), which represents pharmacy benefit managers, said the proposal “would increase costs by tying the hands of employers, unions, and public programs that hire PBMs to negotiate discounts on prescription drugs.”

The battle in New York represents just one small front in pharma’s ongoing defense after more than a year of negative pricing headlines. Egregious hikes by Turing Pharma and Valeant Pharmceuticals drew attention to the topic back in 2015, and scrutiny has picked up as other companies’ practices came to light. Most recently, Marathon Pharma attached an $89,000 price tag to a decades-old med, and then "paused" its launch after the ensuing outcry.