Congress on drugs…

The wave of prescription drug price reform that started in California this year is heading toward Washington, DC.

Several articles, such as in the New York Times (“Drug Industry Is On the Defensive”), Wall Street Journal (“Why Medicare Drugs May Be Sticking Point”), and even the London Times (“Big PHRMA on a Mission to Woo Democrats”, courtesy of Consumers Union’s blog) in the past several days detail the drug companies bracing for the Congressional control to switch to Democrats, who ran on issues such as allowing reimportation of drugs from Canada, and for allowing Medicare to negotiate for the lowest possible price.

The fact that such negotiation was prohibited in the Medicare Part D law was part of the reason that consumer, health, and senior advocates focused at the state level for relief for Californians without prescription drug coverage, including seniors. This led to the epic Prop 78/79 ballot battle last year, where the drug companies spent a record-breaking $80 million, and consumer advocates were left with grassroots tactics up and down the state, including driving an ambulance (above. in Sacramento) and wearing a giant prescription drug costume, (right, at Venice Beach).

But nevertheless, Californians won a landmark prescription drug discount program with AB2911, allowing California to use it purchasing power to negotiate lower prices for up to six million uninsured and underinsured.

The drug companies seem determined not to have this happen in DC. The articles bring up all sorts of tactics to “buy their way out” of this problem, as health care blogger Matthew Holt succintly summarizes it, from hiring key Democratic consultants and staffers, to crafting messages to confuse the issue. Another New York Times article details the close relationships that drug companies cultivate with advocacy and disease groups.

But that doesn’t mean the drug companies will win. The drug companies pulled every trick in the book here in California, as detailed in this Health Access report. Yet we were ultimately able to pass something meaningful here. But it’s a good reminder that they don’t go down without a fight…

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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