In U.S. and Spain, pharma says price cuts will cost jobs

Here's a tale of two drug-spending protests. In the U.S., Pfizer CEO Ian Read is vowing to fight any additional cuts to Medicare drug prices; after all, the reason drugmakers offered up billions in discounts for healthcare reform was to avoid involuntary cuts like this. Read tells Bloomberg that $112 billion up front is nothing to sneeze at. "We made a contribution to the Affordable Care Act that was substantial and fundamental," Read said. "We are only 10% of the healthcare spend in the United States, and we are the most efficient part of that."

Read and other pharma CEOs are speaking out as Congress prepares for another round of deficit negotiations. Millions of pharma dollars are going into lobbying against proposed changes. Merck, for one, says it will "vigorously oppose any targeted, pharmaceutical industry specific approach to increasing federal revenues." And the companies themselves are backed up by industry lobbyists at PhRMA. The association contends that wringing more savings from Medicare Part D could cost pharma $20 billion--and trigger more job cuts in an industry already beset with them. Some 260,000 more, in fact.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Spanish drugmakers and pharmacies are protesting official pharma policies. The strapped Spanish government has been delaying payments for drugs and plans another round of price cuts. And those cuts will, industry officials say, threaten pharma jobs. "We'll have to make the needed adjustments, perhaps not marketing some medicines, and very probably laying people off," one drug executive told Reuters.

One difference between the two: the Spanish fight includes a strike. Drugstores in one region shut their doors for a full day to protest the moves. Some 85% of the 1,300 pharmacies in an area south of Madrid closed Thursday. Governments tend to be about two months behind on payments to drugstores, Reuters notes. For drugmakers, it's a lot worse: Regional governments have put off payments for hospital drugs by as long as two years.

- get the Bloomberg story
- check out the Reuters news

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