US move to negotiate drug prices a rare defeat for Big Pharma

Reuters: Big Pharma spent more than any other industry to lobby Congress and federal agencies this year, a Reuters analysis shows, but still suffered a major defeat after failing to stop a bill that allows the government to negotiate prices on select drugs.

Despite the pharmaceutical industry’s spending at least $142 million on lobbying efforts, the $430 billion Inflation Reduction Act to change climate, health and tax policies will become law. It cleared its largest hurdle last week with passage in the Senate, without any Republicans joining Democrats in voting for the bill, followed by passage by the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday.

President Joe Biden will sign it into law next week.

The bill’s imminent enactment represents a rare legislative defeat for the pharmaceutical industry and sets a precedent for curbing drug prices in the world’s most lucrative market for medicines, according to congressional and industry officials.

“This is a major first step forward,” Democratic Senator Patty Murray, chair of the Senate’s health committee, told Reuters. “It is the first time we’ve been able to make this kind of step to lower prices on pharmaceuticals … which will set the stage for us to do more.”

Health policy experts say the bill reflects the pharma industry’s weakening influence on the Democratic Party and that its main argument against price negotiation — that it stifles innovation — is no longer persuasive for the public.

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll in October found that 83% of Americans, including 95% of Democrats and 71% of Republicans, want the federal Medicare health plan for seniors to negotiate prices, a provision of the bill.

“The pharma guys upped the ante in throwing everything but the kitchen sink against this,” said Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat who chairs the finance committee.

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