Legislation To Reduce Prescription Costs Under Attack By Big Pharma – The Ring Of Fire

Legislation To Reduce Prescription Costs Under Attack By Big Pharma – The Ring Of Fire

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Democrats in Washington, at least some of
them, have been attempting to pass legislation that would help lower the cost of prescription
drugs for American citizens, which is actually something that Donald Trump himself had promised
us when he was running for president. But big pharma won’t let their profits dip
without putting up a fight. I’m joined now by Lee Fang from The Intercept
to tell us what the industry is doing to prevent any legislation that could reduce the cost
of prescription drugs for American consumers. Lee, thanks for joining me today. Hey. Thanks for having me. It should come as no surprise that the drug
industry is revving up its lobbying muscle to block any proposal from the Trump administration
or from democrats on capital hill to reduce drug prices in America. There are a lot of proposals out there, and
so the drug industry kind of working collaboratively, you know, many of the big drug company whether
you’re talking Johnson and Johnson or Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, they are working together
pooling their resources into a trade association known as PhRMA, the Pharmaceutical Research
and Manufactures Association and they’re kind of moving very quickly to stomp out all of
this kind of activism and legislative proposals to curb added control of drug prices in America. Just to give you an example, Senator Al Franken
of Minnesota along with a number of other democrats introduced a big proposal last month
to address high drug prices in America and there are many provisions of the bill. One of the provisions is to allow Medicare
to negotiate using collective bargaining power just as the veterans administration does to
negotiate for lower drug prices. Another provision in the bill allows the re-importation
of FDA-approved drugs from places like Canada. A lot of provisions that the drug industry
does not like and they’ve hired a number of lobbyists. They’re funding a number of advocacy groups
that are all kind of attacking this Senator Franken proposal. It’s worth pointing out that right now I believe
the VA is the only entity, really, in the United States that is allowed to negotiate
drug prices. No other government programs can do that. They attempted, I believe, to get that Medicare
drug price negotiation into the original draft of the Affordable Care Act. Unfortunately, republicans got a hold of that
along with some big pharma lobbyists, manage to strip that from the final piece of legislation,
which that would have been a massive, massive break for American consumers. Again, I think we gotta give Martin Shkreli
a little bit of credit on this issue, because had it not been for his greed helping to bring
the outstanding cost of drugs in the United States to the public’s attention, we probably
wouldn’t be having these conversations today. You had Shkreli with his price gouging then
we had the EpiPen and then we had several other stories. Those really brought this issue to the public’s
attention because before that, yes, we were paying these astronomical prices, but there
wasn’t necessarily very much coverage of it. Now that people understand what’s happening,
we understand we’re paying sometimes upwards of 20,000% markup whereas other countries
may pay up to 2,000 to 5,000% markup, still a huge markup, but a lot less than 20,000. People are angry. We’ve heard that at the town halls and that’s
why democrats finally decided after the public outrage to get up and do something about this. To their credit, most of them are working
on this, but, again, as you pointed out on The Intercept here, we have so much money
from big pharma that they spend on lobbying every single year and now they’re doing it
basically through these other conservative groups to fight this legislation with this
ad campaign that they’ve got running. Tell us about that ad campaign that’s going
here. Yeah. We talk about big pharma spending so much
money, hiring so many lobbyist, providing so much in campaign contributions, but a lot
of the money goes on without any public view. I can give you a number of examples of that. The latest one, the one I just wrote about
is that if you’ll open up Politico or the Washington Post, Washington Times, really
any Washington DC area newspaper, any time over the last two or three weeks after the
Al Franken bill dropped, you’ll see full page advertisements from seemingly independent
groups. Organizations like the American Conservative
Union, Americans for Tax Reform, a number of other organization. These full page ads have pictures of worried
seniors saying, ‘Oh, government bureaucrats are gonna come after your Medicare. They’re gonna ration your choices. They’re gonna do all these dangerous policy
experiments that could threaten your medical care.’ What they’re referring to is Senator Franken’s
bill to reduce drug prices. What the ads don’t tell you is that bureaucrats
are already involved in Medicare. It’s a government program. It’s a ridiculous argument. The bottom line is that these organizations
that are warning you about these drug price reduction proposals are funded by big pharma. They don’t say it in the ads and they don’t
say it on their website, but we’ve seen historically through tax returns that were made public
that hundreds of thousands of dollars from the big drug companies have been pumped into
these organizations, and they have a long history of taking corporate money and then
advocating or lobbying on behalf of their corporate donors. Some of it just kind of boggles my mind. Americans for Tax Reform is that famous group
founded by Grover Norquist, the anti-tax lobbyist. Here he is sponsoring an advertisement on
Medicare drug prices. This has nothing to do with taxes. If anything, if we allowed Medicare to negotiate
for lower prices, that would reduce the amounts that taxpayers have to spend. So he’s arguing, actually, for proposals that
waste more tax dollars but he’s doing so kind of covertly to help his drug company sponsor. So I think that’s the issue here. Just back to your earlier point about Martin
Shkreli, because that was a very clarifying, I think, flashpoint because what Martin Shkreli
did was basically, he didn’t do any innovation. He didn’t do any research. He didn’t come up with a new idea. He simply bought the patent and jacked up
the price and did so overnight. So that elicited a lot of big headlines. The dirty secret of big pharma is that a lot
of the big companies do the exact same thing, they just increase prices incrementally. They buy a smaller drug firm with medical
technology developed in partnership with the government, NIH is still the biggest funder
of medical research in the country. They buy up the patent and then they increase
the drug prices by 10%, 20% on a monthly or yearly basis. So the actual behavior is identical to Shkreli,
they just don’t it in such a hand handed way to attract public attention. But if you look at the financial filings of
pretty much all of the big pharma companies, these companies are spending much more on
advertising, on lobbying, on merges and acquisitions than they actually spend on research and development. All the big pharmas, essentially, pharma companies
essentially act as Martin Shkreli does, they just do so in a much more sophisticated way
so they don’t attract the same type of negative headlines. Exactly. Shkreli saw that these companies, you know,
he saw how rich they were getting, how they were doing it and he decided he wanted to
get a piece of that action, he just didn’t know it takes a little bit of nuance when
you want to rip off American consumers.

18 thoughts on “Legislation To Reduce Prescription Costs Under Attack By Big Pharma – The Ring Of Fire

  • Antenna Wilde Post author

    "shocking". I wish there was a way to boycott US prescription drugs, ~sigh

  • jfsfrnd Post author

    The greed in America is astounding. The only way to curb it is by regulations. I get my medication every two months and each time the cost has risen.

  • Theron XL Post author

    i challenge ANYONE to tell me ANYTHING thats real about this country….the political and justice system is total bullshit…and the medical industry has been for a long time…you fuckers are pledging alligence to a scam…

  • Gargamel Smurff Post author

    no way the big pharma fighting to keep the right to keep screwing the american peoples that should be a criminal offence all in it own call your senators house reps congress men and women and tell them this will not do big pharma is just that too big and ravaging the old and the poor the sick and the dying its sicking just to think about

  • Amy Sternheim Post author

    Cancer can develop in anyone even martin skrelli. Just saying…..

  • Jason Smith Post author

    Tell your congressperson
    call (202)225-3121 and ask them to connect you to your congressperson.

  • rich b Post author

    Fucking bastards. Fucking CEOs need to fucking hang.

  • Momma Kitty Post author

    People should realize the illusion of lack that creates despair is called class warfare! Capitalists and elitists want to disenfranchise anything living! It creates need to keep them rich and under the false illusion of power.

  • Survive The Remorse Post author

    They thought Cory Booker would kill it for them . Guess they will pay more Democrats to sell us out. Count on the Dems to throw us under the bus.

  • gbnz53 Post author

    I suggest Americans google what various pharmaceutical drugs cost in other countries, although bear in mind, many Governments like mine negotiate large pricing discounts and also subsidise the price at the Pharmacy. For example, I live in New Zealand and I pay no more than NZ$5.00 (US$3.50) per prescription for any drug. (Children under 13 and some high prescription users pay nothing). American consumers are getting ripped off big time!

  • niceguy60 Post author

    This is all show, the corrupt DEMS know they have no power to get any legislation through and they don't want any to go through anyway. This is fake theater to try to trick progressives back into their neoliberal corrupt ranks.

  • SamStam12 Post author

    You guys missing the point that Trump signed an executive order re: this issue?

  • Ruth Cunningham Post author

    Reform campaign financing in America to limit the amount of financial support that candidates are allowed to receive, from large corporate/rich donors and others. Then you wouldn't​ have elected officials and the President working on behalf of Big Pharma, the medical industry, and other corporate entities. As long as there is pay-to-play and legal bribery in politics, politicians will work on behalf of their donors (to reduce regulations, give corporations tax breaks, and pass laws that help corporations make more profits) – all at the expense of the needs and wants of the American people. The only way to get industries to reduce their consumer prices is to reduce the demand – with boycotting and the like. There are docs in America that specialize in natural medicine, herbal medicine, Eastern medicine, etc. Those are options as well.

  • goodgulf13 Post author

    People voted for Trump because they thought he was wealthy enough to not be bought and sold by lobbiests. Except the bills come from the House and Senate. They are crooked as Hell.

  • Anti Hypocrite Post author

    The government should just lock up the CEO of big pharma if the prices do not come down .

  • Joe Dellarena Post author

    Paying too much for prescription drugs? Call Joe at 336-687-7920 for a free quote for lowest price in your area. 
    I will need the following:  Name of medication, dosage, quantity and zip code.

  • Wayne Wallace Post author

    Nah, no thanks to Big Pharma drugs. I rather treat the root cause of the disease with herbs rather than suppress the symptoms with drugs. 🙂

  • Jonie Isenberg Post author


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