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Why Democrats spent so much time bashing Big Pharma last night

by Resurgent Insider Read Profile arrow_right_alt

Did you notice how last night, during the first debate, virtually all the candidates took an opportunity to bash Big Pharma just about as hard as humanly possible? No? Is that because you didn’t watch the first Democratic debate?

“2,500 drugs have gone up in double-digits since [Trump] came into office,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar on Wednesday night. According to Rx Savings Solutions, more like 1,500 drugs have seen a 10 percent or more increase since Trump was sworn in. Oops. (CNBC)

If the answer is “yes,” that’s fair. Nonetheless, it happened, and left some political junkies on Twitter scratching their heads. Has Big Pharma become the new Koch Brothers or Wall Street or King Coal or or Big Tech for progressives– or indeed voters, overall?

The short answer is, it turns out, is “yes.” That’s a big reason why President Trump has been devoting a lot of attention to the issue of drug prices, and also why figures like Sen. Amy Klobuchar were happy to egregiously mischaracterize his record to make political hay and position themselves as true leaders on the drug pricing front last night.

From a March Kaiser Family Foundation poll:

By a 9-to-1 ratio, Republicans, Democrats and independents favor making drug companies show list prices in their advertising… Highly advertised medicines such as Humira, for arthritis, cost tens of thousands of dollars a year, even after discounts.

Although Republicans tend to frown on government control over commerce, 8 in 10 Republican respondents said they support giving negotiating power to the $700 billion Medicare program in order to lower drug prices for seniors.

More than 70 percent of all respondents back importing drugs from Canada and capping out-of-pocket Medicare costs. More than 80 percent said they favor making it easier for less expensive generics to compete with brand-name drugs.

It’s easy to poke intellectual, and even legal, holes in these proposals. But those numbers explain a lot about Trump’s own behavior and rhetoric, as well as those of the likes of Klobuchar.

For the record, Trump has actually been delivering on drug prices, which may make it tougher for attacks like Klobuchar’s to stick, setting aside CNBC fact-checks:

Last weekend, health care industry publication STAT News purported to take a hatchet to President Trump’s record on drug prices, but they indirectly ended up making the case that Trump has actually delivered on drug prices— and not by just a little. By a lot. In fact, STAT called Trump’s results “a historic feat.” Really.

[…]

Another iteration of this: At the end of 2018, the Trump administration announced that it would be setting ceiling price regulations on drugs in the 340B prescription drug program and setting up a transparency database related to those drugs’ prices. As a reminder, 340B is a non-taxpayer-funded program under which Big Pharma has to offer discounts on drugs for poorer patients in exchange for getting access to entitlement money (which they lobbied to expand with Obamacare and Medicare Part D).

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