As drug prices skyrocket and insurers pass the cost to patients, those patients are looking for relief somewhere. Unable to rely on drug companies to charge reasonable prices and less able to rely on insurance companies to cover their needs at an affordable price, the people have taken the issue into their own hands through initiatives like Proposition 61. Yet they face major opposition from the pharmaceutical industry which uses its massive resources to fight these attempts. Concrete action by congress and the president in favor of personal importation would give Americans a real, effective, safe alternative.
The pharmaceutical industry will soon step up its lobbying efforts. As promised earlier this year they will devote millions of dollars to lobbying and ad campaigns in 2017 to push forward their message that high prices are needed to fund their research efforts and to portray the pharmaceutical industry in a positive light. They’re beefing up their war chest too. PhRMA, the industry lobby group, raised their membership dues 50% to increase their annual budget to more than $300 million/year. The fight from a money point of view is one-sided, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be won. Patients are always the ones who get caught in the middle and always end up paying more, and it’s time for that to change. They need to demand action from Congress and the new president.
The biggest protection you have against the spin of the big pharmaceutical lobby is education. Keep in mind, when you see these ads, they are intended to polish the pharmaceutical industry’s tarnished image. They want to drown out the discontent over prices by showing they absolutely need the money. That’s an argument that’s in doubt. Pharmaceutical companies routinely spend more money on marketing than they do and research and development; further, pumping millions more into their industry lobby demonstrates money can’t be very tight.
According to a Harvard-STAT poll from 2015 the public’s perception of how well the pharmaceutical industry is serving people has dropped markedly, 79% of the American public said the industry is doing a good job in 1997, that dropped to 49% in 2015. Ultimately the public has to decide if PhRMA’s message is true but anger over high drug prices suggests the pharmaceutical industry faces an uphill battle.