Biotech lobby plunges into drug pricing debate

Biotech lobby plunges into drug pricing debate
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The head of the nation’s largest biotech lobby declared Wednesday he is fighting back in the raging debate over drug prices that he said has turned his industry into “an easy scapegoat” in 2016.

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Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) President Jim Greenwood announced a sweeping plan to reclaim the pharmaceutical industry’s reputation.

"During this election season, our industry has become an easy scapegoat for the real and growing problem of patient access to affordable new medications," Greenwood, a former GOP lawmaker from Pennsylvania, said during an international conference in San Francisco. "My friends, we are fighting back."

The plan includes more paid advertisements and a campaign-style “rapid-response” team, which includes a former Jeb Bush presidential campaign aide. BIO is also going "door-to-door" in Congress, where lawmakers have been quick to scrutinize the industry.

The global group is also upping its own ground game, arming each drug developer with their own set of facts to deploy in the debate. The move helps create an army of advocates from 1,200 companies and organizations, which could help the industry punch back ahead of the fall election. 

Greenwood also announced he's joining Twitter — the same place where one of the pharmaceutical industry's so-called bad actors, Martin Shkreli, has made some of most contentious statements.

His speech makes clear that even its own customers, health insurance companies, won’t be protected from criticism in the crusade.

“We'll tell people what's happening in the insurance industry. Yes, insurance companies are among our customers, but the customer isn’t always right,” Greenwood said. “Not when it means shifting drug costs that they should be covering on to patients who can’t afford them. Not when some are abusing specialty tier pricing to drive up their margins by driving sick patients out of their plans.”

Greenwood has led BIO since 2005 after ending a nearly 20-year career in the House.