Big Pharma Aims to Buck Trump's Policies to Lower Drug Prices 

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Promoted from the diaries by streiff. Promotion does not imply endorsement.
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President Trump has taken a strong stand against Big Pharma’s skyrocketing drug prices since his first day in office, unveiling an expansive plan, the Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices, last year.  In addition to the strong policy prescriptions in that plan and others implemented by his Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, and FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, the President has deployed the bully pulpit to great effect.

The President kicked off his Administration with one of the more memorable rhetorical blasts when he declared that the pharmaceutical industry was “getting away with murder,” putting Big Pharma on notice that he was serious about reining-in sky-high prescription drug prices.

When Big Pharma implemented another round of price hikes last year, the President took to Twitter to tell his millions of followers that “Pfizer & others should be ashamed that they have raised drug prices for no reason . . . . They are merely taking advantage of the poor & others unable to defend themselves, while at the same time giving bargain basement prices to other countries in Europe & elsewhere. We will respond!”  Within a day, Pfizer rolled back its price hikes.

But, while the President’s efforts stopped some price hikes, Big Pharma showed its true colors this year when, after many big drug companies pledged to limit drug price hikes in 2018, they quickly returned to their old games with a major round of price hikes this last January.

Big Pharma is doing so much to thwart the President’s agenda on drug pricing, its curious when a Pharma-backed group pops up with the vast majority of “public comments” on a Trump Administration drug pricing proposal.

STAT reports that:

RetireSafe, a Washington-based advocacy group with ties to the drug industry, appears to be behind a deluge of comments on HHS’ controversial proposal to end the current system of rebates used to negotiate the price of drugs.

Roughly 18,000 comments have been submitted about the proposal, a number that far exceeds the normal submission rate for recent Trump administration drug pricing proposals.

More than 5,000 of those comments were made public Wednesday, and nearly all of the available comments reflect the same wording in support of the proposal. That wording matches a RetireSafe-sponsored form letter available at the website SubmitForChange.org.

Finding itself in the Trump Administration’s crosshairs, the pharmaceutical industry has done all it can to shift the blame for its unaffordable drugs to every other player in the health care market, and this campaign is just the latest attempt to manipulate the process.

The group at the center of the campaign, RetireSafe, has a long history of manufacturing support for Big Pharma’s priorities, including a 2013 campaign that tried to use the name of “Occupy Wall Street” groups to oppose a policy proposal that the pharmaceutical industry didn’t like.

RetireSafe is far from the only front group that Big Pharma uses to push its policies.  An investigation by Kaiser Health News showed that Big Pharma gave $116 million to “patient groups” in a single year, some of which “echo industry talking points in media campaigns and letters to federal agencies, and do little else.”

In a more direct attack on the Trump Administration’s work to lower drug prices, Kaiser Health News also reported that Big Pharma activated another “non-profit” campaign in 2017 with the goal of opposing the import of cheaper drugs from countries with high safety standards, a policy that the President advocated for during his campaign and that the Administration is currently working on.

The Trump Administration is doing more to reduce drug prices than any administration in memory and Big Pharma is pulling out all the stops to throw sand in the gears of progress. The Administration should tread carefully when a Big Pharma astroturf campaign appears out of nowhere.