Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
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Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
Pharmaguy curates and provides insights into selected drug industry news and issues.
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Nonprofit Working To Block Drug Imports Has Ties To Pharma Lobby

Nonprofit Working To Block Drug Imports Has Ties To Pharma Lobby | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

A nonprofit organization that has orchestrated a wide-reaching campaign against foreign drug imports has deep ties to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, the powerful lobbying group that includes Eli Lilly, Pfizer and Bayer.

 

The nonprofit, called the Partnership for Safe Medicines, has recently emerged as a leading voice against Senate bills that would allow drugs to be imported from Canada.

 

Both the lobbying group and the nonprofit partnership have gone to great lengths to show that drugmakers are not driving what they describe as a grass-roots effort to fight imports, including an expensive advertising blitz and an event last week that featured high-profile former FBI officials and a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner.

 

However, a Kaiser Health News analysis of groups involved in the partnership shows more than one-third have received PhRMA funding or are local chapters of groups that have received PhRMA funding, according to PhRMA tax disclosures from 2013 to 2015.

 

Forty-seven of the organizations listed in the ads appear to be advocacy organizations that received no money from PhRMA in those years.

 

A PhRMA senior vice president, Scott LaGanga, previously led the Partnership for Safe Medicines for 10 years. At PhRMA, LaGanga was responsible for the lobbying group's alliances with patient advocacy groups, and he was simultaneously listed as the executive director of the Partnership for Safe Medicines on each of that group's annual tax filings since 2007, the earliest year for which they are available from ProPublica's Nonprofit Explorer.

 

LaGanga wrote a 2011 article about the partnership's origins. Published in the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology, it described "public-private partnerships in addressing counterfeit medicines." His PhRMA job was not disclosed in the article.

 

From 2010 to 2014, the organization hosted a conference called the Partnership for Safe Medicines Interchange. In a video from a 2013 event, LaGanga thanks pharmaceutical companies, most of them PhRMA members, for sponsoring the event.

 

In February, LaGanga moved to a senior role at PhRMA and stepped down as executive director of the Partnership for Safe Medicines, just as the group's campaign to stop import legislation was revving up.

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AARP to Trump: Don’t Mess with Medicare & Let Us Import Lower Price Drugs

AARP to Trump: Don’t Mess with Medicare & Let Us Import Lower Price Drugs | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

In a letter to President-elect Donald J. Trump, AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins outlined AARP’s priorities for Americans 50 and older, calling for protection of Medicare and Social Security as well as access to affordable health care and prescription drugs.

 

“Throughout the [election] campaign, your statements on these important issues of health and financial security set you apart from many other candidates,” Jenkins told Trump in a letter released Tuesday. “Now, as you assume office, older Americans are looking to you to protect them from efforts to cut their benefits, increase their costs or otherwise harm the crucial programs they rely on.”

 

AARP members believe Medicare and Social Security should be strengthened for future generations, Jenkins wrote. “Unfortunately, some congressional leaders have discussed plans to fundamentally change the Medicare program and undermine the contract made with generations of Americans,” she wrote.

 

The letter cites congressional proposals to fundamentally change Medicare by creating a defined-contribution “premium-support” system, which would give recipients a fixed amount, in the form of vouchers, to buy private health insurance. Other proposals would raise the age of eligibility for Medicare from 65 to 67 and allow hospitals and providers to charge higher prices than Medicare.

 

“These proposals do little to actually lower the cost of health care,” Jenkins wrote. “They simply shift costs from Medicare onto individuals — many of whom cannot afford to pay more for their health care.”

 

To confront continued huge price spikes for prescription drugs, AARP backs proposals to give the secretary of Health and Human Services the authority to negotiate lower prices on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries. “In addition, we agree with you that we should reduce barriers to better pricing competition worldwide by allowing for the safe importation of lower priced drugs,” Jenkins told Trump.

 

Further Reading:

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I'm NOT With Trump Against Big #Pharma, Says @John_LaMattina @Forbes

I'm NOT With Trump Against Big #Pharma, Says @John_LaMattina @Forbes | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

In a recent guest piece on STAT [read “One Physician Says Donald Trump Is Right About #Pharma”; http://sco.lt/6xx1mb], Dr. Charles D. Rosen enthusiastically supports Mr. Trump’s negative views on the pharmaceutical industry. Dr. Rosen, a clinical professor of orthopaedic surgery at UC Irvine, believes that the Republican presidential nominee is correct on some key issues including:

 

1) allowing Medicare to negotiate prices with drug companies;

 

2) allowing cheaper pharmaceutical drugs manufactured abroad to be sold in the U.S.

 

Both points are worthy of debate. Unfortunately, rather than provide thoughtful commentary, Dr. Rosen (who is also the president of the Association of Medical Ethics) goes into a variety of rants to support his views. For example, on Medicare drug price negotiations, a position that the Democratic candidate, Sec. Hillary Clinton also supports, rather than acknowledging the bipartisan backing of such a proposal, Dr. Rosen trashes Clinton’s credibility on following through with her publicly stated stance.

 

“Hillary Clinton, on the other hand accepted more cash from pharmaceutical companies in the first six months of her campaign than any other candidate in either party. This lessens the potency of her claims to take similar action and suggests yet again disingenuous declarations. If she claims to be such an enemy of Big Pharma, why then are they contributing to her campaign?………Unlike Hillary Clinton, whose campaign coffer is loaded with contributions from drug companies, Trump has barely dipped into that pot of besmirched gold. Yes, Trump is defying Republican dogma, but he’s honestly and forthrightly calling Big Pharma on its Big Baloney.”

 

Personally, given the outrage over drug prices and the growing calls for controlling Medicare costs, I would not be surprised to see legislation enacted in the next four years giving Medicare the ability to negotiate drug prices regardless of who is elected the 45th U.S. president. In fact, if anything the group NOT likely to support such legislation would be Republicans and not Democrats. Yet, rather than discuss the precedent for government drug price negotiations, as already happens with the Veterans Administration, Dr. Rosen chooses to delve into a Trump-like anti-Clinton attack. Sad.

 

The same can be said for Dr. Rosen’s views on drug importation. This is a great topic for discussion. Unfortunately, Dr. Rosen goes into another attack.

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Federal Judge Strikes Down Maine Drug Re-Importation Law: Is It a Victory for Patients or for Pharma?

Federal Judge Strikes Down Maine Drug Re-Importation Law: Is It a Victory for Patients or for Pharma? | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

A federal judge has struck down a 2013 law that allowed Maine residents to buy prescription drugs by mail from other countries, often at a significant discount.


U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Torresen ruled Monday that Maine’s law circumvented federal law, which permits state-to-state drug sales but prohibits international imports. Her decision renders the law invalid, although the state can appeal.


The primary plaintiffs in the case – the Maine Pharmacy Association and the Retail Association of Maine – praised the decision, but former state Sen. Troy Jackson, who sponsored the bill that became law, was disappointed.


“The pharmaceutical industry wins these things 10 out of 10 times, so I’m not surprised,” said Jackson, a Democrat from Allagash.


Timothy Feeley, spokesman for the Maine Attorney General’s Office, said no decision has been made on an appeal. He did say that, in light of the decision, “Congress and the FDA should re-examine their policy toward importation of prescription drugs.”


Maine’s 2013 law was the first of its kind in the nation. It was passed to address a 2012 decision by then-Attorney General William Schneider that halted the popular CanaRx program, which allowed Mainers to buy cheaper prescription drugs across the northern border.

The law identified four countries from which residents could buy prescriptions over the Internet – Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Those countries were chosen because they have similar safety regulations and oversight, but can charge less for drugs because of deals with pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Pharma Guy's insight:


The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America hailed the decision:


“This is a significant victory for patients,” John Murphy, the trade group’s associate general counsel, said in a written statement. “It confirms the important role the (Food and Drug Administration) plays in regulating the drug supply chain and protecting consumers from counterfeit and adulterated medicines that may be inserted into an unregulated supply chain like the one Maine sought to facilitate.”


Meanwhile, IMHO, PhRMA should be concerned about its own "pink slime" issue: Did you know that up to 80 percent of the active ingredients in drugs used in the United States are made overseas? Hopefully, those ingredients meet high standards. Yet up to 149 Americans died in 2007 and 2008 after taking heparin, a blood thinner, contaminated during the manufacturing process in China. For more on that, read Will Pharma Experience It's Own "Pink Slime" Social Media Crisis?

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Sanders to Challenge Trump to Support Allowing Medicare to Negotiate Drug Prices

Sanders to Challenge Trump to Support Allowing Medicare to Negotiate Drug Prices | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Tuesday said he will introduce legislation allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and called on President-elect Donald Trump to support the proposal.

 

"If Mr. Trump is serious about taking on Pharma, if Mr. Trump is serious about having Medicare ... negotiate prescription drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry, we are going to have very shortly very significant legislation to do just that," Sanders told reporters.

 

"I would hope that Mr. Trump would join us and support that legislation."

 

Trump indicated throughout the campaign that he would support allowing the government to negotiate drug prices and said last week that the pharmaceutical industry is "getting away with murder" because of what it charges the government.

 

Sanders did not say when he would be introducing his legislation, which is also expected to allow for importing drugs from Canada and other countries.

 

Further Reading:

  • “Cory Booker and 12 Other Dems Just Stopped Bernie Sanders’ Amendment to Lower Prescription Drug Costs”; http://sco.lt/6FEFw9
Pharma Guy's insight:

Feel the Bern!

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Cory Booker and 12 Other Dems Just Stopped Bernie Sanders’ Amendment to Lower Prescription Drug Costs

Cory Booker and 12 Other Dems Just Stopped Bernie Sanders’ Amendment to Lower Prescription Drug Costs | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Just recently, Senator Sanders proposed an amendment to the 21st Century Century Cures Act to lower drug costs and allow for the import of cheaper drugs from other countries. However, that failed thanks to Republican opposition, and so he tried again, this time attaching a similar amendment to a concurrent budget resolution for the fiscal year of 2017, to allow importing of cheaper prescription drugs from Canada.

 

As a Reddit user, gideonvwainwright, pointed out, that amendment failed despite having the support of 12 Republicans including both Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) because of the 'Nay' votes of thirteen Democrats—one of whom was Senator Booker.

 

Between 2010 and 2016, a handful of the Democratic senators who voted “nay” were amongst the top Senate recipients funded by pharmaceutical companies: Sen. Booker received $267,338; Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) received $254,649; Robert Casey (D-PA) received $250,730; Michael Bennet (D-CO) received $222,000. As the former mayor of Newark, Cory Booker faced corruption scandals and increased crime and unemployment levels as his star power outside the state rose. He is heavily favored by Wall Street, with securities and investment firms donating $1.88 million to Booker during the 2014 midterm elections; their second-favorite candidate was Mitch McConnell.

 

In response to the growing outcry against his actions, Senator Booker tweeted the following: “Please know, a number of dems who voted no last night AGREE WE MUST IMPORT. But we believe basic FDA standards must be met.”

 

What he fails to mention is that Canada’s drug approval process is similar to our own in that it first requires various animal testing, and then rounds of clinical trials before a drug can enter circulation. What differences there are hardly seem to matter given that Canada’s average life expectancy is two years longer than the United States’ according to the World Bank. In addition, the word “safe” already appears in the Sanders amendment when related to the importation of drugs. This excuse seems like a cynical effort to divert responsibility for a bad call.

 

Further Reading:

  • “How to Alleviate High Cost of Prescription Drugs in the U.S.”; http://sco.lt/765VGj
  • “Federal Judge Strikes Down Maine Drug Re-Importation Law: Is It a Victory for Patients or for Pharma?”; http://sco.lt/7e2ykT
Pharma Guy's insight:

Public Citizen, a consumer-advocacy group and longtime critic of the pharmaceutical industry, has a mixed view of importation. The group, founded by Ralph Nader, has expressed concerns about quality and maintaining FDA standards. But it also is wary of industry influence opposing proposals to provide lower-cost drugs.

 

“Quality is not an illegitimate argument,” said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines Program. “However, our experience counsels that it sometimes is a fig leaf for protecting pharma profits, and that issue shouldn’t be ignored as well.”

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One Physician Says Donald Trump Is Right About #Pharma

One Physician Says Donald Trump Is Right About #Pharma | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

With Donald Trump finally ensconced as the Republican nominee for president, it’s high time to applaud his spot-on positions on the pharmaceutical industry.

 

As a physician, I believe that Trump is absolutely right about allowing cheaper pharmaceutical drugs manufactured abroad to be sold in the United States. He is right that the pharmaceutical companies essentially sell their products to the federal government via Medicare and Medicaid without competitive bidding. In other areas of the budget, such as defense, federal laws require competitive bidding. It is outrageous this doesn’t occur with drugs and devices, especially since the health care budget is right behind defense in terms of expense.

 

Trump is right when he says that drug companies control the landscape. He appears to be willing to call it as it is and not worry about repercussions from the powerful drug interests, and has moved in the right direction in saying he would let Medicare negotiate with pharmaceutical companies if he becomes president. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, accepted more cash from pharmaceutical companies in the first six months of her campaign than any other candidate in either party. This lessens the potency of her claims to take similar action and suggests yet again disingenuous declarations. If she claims to be such an enemy of Big Pharma, then why are they contributing to her campaign?

 

Trump looks at the world through the prism of commerce. The situation we are in with pharmaceuticals and medical devices makes no sense to him. As a physician, I think it’s near criminal that special interests come before my patients. The drug lobbies have succeeded in making the importation of prescription drugs illegal under various self-serving agendas, disguised as “for the public good” and “protecting the drug companies” so they can continue to innovate.

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