People forget the stir Big Pharma created 16 months ago when it gave Big-Ups to the Big O at a time when he desperately needed passengers to ride the Health Reform Express.
The dust-up took place before Massachusetts produced “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” starring Scott Brown, and before Congressional parliamentarians reminded us what reconciliation meant. And it happened before Congress managed to vote 100% along party lines on what was inarguably one of the most important pieces of social legislation in our generation.
But it did happen. In June, 2009, Big Pharma’s main lobbying arm offered the Big O a deal he couldn’t refuse: “We’ll cut prices on drugs purchased by Medicare by $80 billion over the next 10 years if you don’t push Medicare to import cheap drugs from Canada or direct it to negotiate price cuts with us.”
At the time, the Party of No was aghast! How could Big Pharma do such a thing? John Boehner was so moved by the treasonous behavior, he accused the lobbying group of trying to appease a “bully.”
(Oh c’mon John! Obama? A “bully”?)
Of course all of this is old news especially since Republicans cleaned house in the midterms and are now threatening to repeal and replace the Big O’s health reform law altogether.
Will the purge include a bit of pay-back for Big Pharma? Alas, probably not. There have been no calls for retribution by the Republicans. In fact, many industry insiders believe drug companies might make out just fine in view of the antiregulatory, antigovernment sentiments espoused by the Boehners.
These insiders doubt the GOP would seek to reverse the “doughnut hole” savings for Medicare beneficiaries that was part of the original deal, since that would be panned by senior citizens and why give the Pelosis an issue they can leverage?
Beyond this, Big Pharma believes the GOP might just help them out by reauthorizing the Prescription Drug User Fee Act, which permits drug and device companies to funnel cash to the FDA in order to expedite product reviews. The drug industry claims this process assures new drugs get to market more quickly by assuring the FDA has enough resources to move things along (and want you to ignore those silly consumer advocates who argue such fees could bias the FDA process!).
The impetus to repeal the PDUFA in the first place came from Connecticut Rosa DeLauro and other House Democrats, who are now playing second fiddle to the Boehners. “Consumer groups will be neutered in this discussion,” analyst Ira Loss of Washington Analysis LLC told the Wall Street Journal.
And it didn’t hurt matters that Big Pharma donations, which tilted uncharacteristically toward the Big O in 2008, flowed heavily toward GOP candidates this time ‘round…