The pharmaceutical industry has been the focus of intense political criticism, with President Trump targeting drugmakers on Twitter and lawmakers taking aim at lowering prescription prices through legislation. Yet despite all the anger and rhetorical attacks drug companies face, the industry “is still winning in Washington,” STAT’s Nicholas Florko and Lev Facher write in an in-depth special report:
“In the past month alone, drug makers and the army of lobbyists they employ pressured a Republican senator not to push forward a bill that would have limited some of their intellectual property rights, according to lobbyists and industry representatives. They managed to water down another before it was added to a legislative package aimed at lowering health care costs. Lobbyists also convinced yet another GOP lawmaker — once bombastically opposed to the industry’s patent tactics — to publicly commit to softening his own legislation on the topic. ...
“Even off Capitol Hill, they found a way to block perhaps the Trump administration’s most substantial anti-industry accomplishment in the past two years: a rule that would have required drug companies to list their prices in television ads.
“To pick their way through the policy minefield, drug makers have successfully deployed dozens of lobbyists and devoted record-breaking sums to their federal advocacy efforts. But there is also a seemingly new strategy in play: industry CEOs have targeted their campaign donations this year on a pair of vulnerable Republican lawmakers — and then called on them not to upend the industry’s business model.”
Florko and Facher go on to explain that the industry has been helped in its quest to avoid having its business model torpedoed by both a splintered Congress and Trump administration infighting. But they detail how the industry has flexed its lobbying muscle — and used its money — to shield itself from legislative threats thus far. “Big Pharma has replaced Big Tobacco as the most powerful brute in the ranks of Washington power brokers,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) told STAT. (PhRMA, the drug industry’s largest lobbying group here, declined comment to STAT.)
The drug-pricing battles aren’t over yet — and industry representatives insist that they’re getting killed — but Florko and Facher provide a worthwhile look at the drugmakers’ aggressive maneuvering to fight the sweeping changes being discussed on Capitol Hill.