Advertisements from seemingly independent advocacy groups are swamping Beltway newspapers with dire warning that recent proposals to lower drug prices will lead to dangerous consequences. In the last week alone, the ads have appeared in the Washington Post, Washington Times, Roll Call, The Hill, and Politico.
The groups placing the ads have no obvious connection to pharmaceutical companies. For instance, the American Conservative Union (ACU), one of the organizations taking out an ad, describes itself as devoted to promoting “liberty, personal responsibility, traditional values, and strong national defense.”
But unbeknownst to readers, the organizations have undisclosed financial ties to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the umbrella lobbying group that represents the biggest names in the drug industry, including Merck, Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Purdue Pharma, and Eli Lilly.
The ads have appeared as legislators are taking up proposals designed to lower drug prices — potentially cutting into the profits of the big drugmakers. A bill proposed by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., would reverse a 2003 law that prohibits Medicare from using its collective bargaining power to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices. The ban on negotiation was originally authored by legislators working closely with PhRMA lobbyists, and the sponsor of the ban later became a PhRMA lobbyist.