Healthcare coalition targets PhRMA with drug-pricing plan

A national healthcare alliance aimed at reducing drug costs is rolling out a dozen proposals that it hopes will provide the framework for a major debate in Congress over the next year.

The Campaign for Sustainable Drug Pricing, which includes AARP, Wal-Mart, doctor groups and health plan groups, unveiled 12 policy proposals on Monday — nearly all targeting drugmakers.


At the top of the group’s agenda is transparency. The campaign wants drugmakers to give access to large swaths of data, from their national pricing to the "true" research and development costs for each drug.

It’s a frequently cited idea within the healthcare industry but one that remains controversial with drug manufacturers. Companies argue the data are key to retaining an edge in an already competitive market.

New requirements for drug companies to disclose data have gained traction on the campaign trail, with Democratic presidential candidates Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonUSPS warns Pennsylvania mail-in ballots may not be delivered in time to be counted Senate leaves until September without coronavirus relief deal Gloria Steinem: Selection of Kamala Harris recognizes that 'black women ... are the heart and soul of the Democratic Party' MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersChris Wallace: Trump struggling with attacks on 'shape-shifter' Harris Kamala Harris: The outreach Latinos need Biden and Harris seen as more moderate than Trump and Pence: poll MORE (I-Vt.) vowing to shed light on drugmakers’ costs and profits.  

“Voters are looking for solutions for this,” John Rother, the campaign’s executive director, said during a briefing on Monday. “We need more information about the costs of treatments and how the price is decided.”

Under the Campaign for Sustainable Drug Pricing plan, drugmakers would be required to disclose how much they spent to make their products and how much patients will pay. They would also have to disclose how much federal money went into each product, such as if they used grants from the National Institutes of Health.  

Companies would also be required to report more clinical trial data, changing a system that members argue currently deters generic drugs from entering the market.

The campaign wants to make generic drugs more available by speeding up their approval. It calls for more resources — specifically, funding and staff — to help the Food and Drug Administration clear its massive backlog of drug applications.

Noticeably absent from the campaign's member list are drugmakers.

Rother repeatedly called the coalition “very, very broad” and inclusive. But while it includes several doctors, hospitals and health plans, it does not include a single drugmaker.

Rother said he has personally had several “off the record” discussions with members of D.C.’s drug lobbying group, the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America, but the campaign has not officially been in touch with the group.

“I don’t think we’re at the point where we’re seeing serious negotiations yet,” Rother told The Hill.

Bob Doherty, a senior vice president for the American College of Physicians, acknowledged that the drugmaker lobby probably “won’t agree with a lot of what we’re recommending today.” But he said his group has been in talks with the group “for months or even years” about his ideas to reform drug pricing.

Several of the ideas are already under consideration in Congress, where House and Senate lawmakers of both parties have been working toward a medication innovation package they believe President Obama could sign this year.

The House version of that bill, 21st Century Cures, passed overwhelmingly last fall.  

Rother declined to discuss his strategy on Capitol Hill for advocating his plan.

“I think it’s too early. I think that discussion is just beginning,” Rother, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Health Care, said when asked about conversations with lawmakers.