As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, September 18, 2009


Ryan Grim has been all over the story of Big Pharma's deal with the White House and Max Baucus, and despite the denials from everyone, Grim notes that the language in Baucus' draft matches the terms of the deal.

In August, the Huffington Post published a memo that outlined exactly what each side was going to do for the other. And Big Pharma was getting a lot more than they were giving up.

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America senior vice president Ken Johnson said that the outline "is simply not accurate." White House spokesman Reid Cherlin concurred: "This memo isn't accurate and does not reflect the agreement with the drug companies."

But now that the bill is out, let's fact check those denials.

1) The memo said that PhRMA would "[a]gree to increase of Medicaid rebate from 15.1 - 23.1%".
The finance bill, on page 56, increases the Medicaid rebates for patented drugs from 15.1 to 23.1 percent.

2) The memo said that the parties had agreed "to get FOBs done." FOBs refer to follow-on biologic drugs - vaccines and other drugs made from living cells that are the fastest growing field of pharmaceutical research.

PhRMA wants extended patent protections from generic biologic drug makers. A finance committee aide said that the Baucus bill doesn't address biologics, leaving that to the Senate health committee's bill. The health committee bill gives drug makers 12 years of market exclusivity -- five more than the White House proposed -- and allows a 12-year extension with a minor tweak to the drug. The protection is worth billions to drug makers and is entirely unnecessary to encourage research, according to the Federal Trade Commission, which recommended zero years of market exclusivity.

"Already biologics take up at least 30% of Medicare part B spending and this proposal has been rolled into the overall health care reform bill, which is meant create cost savings, which it will not do," Jane Andrews, a medical student at the Johns Hopkins University and a member of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, wrote in an e-mail to HuffPost. "It's simply a giveaway to BIO/PhRMA from Congress supported by the American Association of Universities."

Check (more or less.)

There are more, just go read. Baucus actually doubled the fee on the industry, from $1.2 billion a year to $2.3 billion, but the rest pretty much matches up. No importation of drugs from Canada, no negotiating with drugmakers for cheaper prices on prescription drugs, no shift of drugs into Medicare Part D.

There's no denying that this deal has been made, and the consequences are also clear. Right now, Democrats are worried about the coverage subsidies in the bill, believing they don't make health care affordable enough. One reason for the constraint is that these deals artificially limit the amount of money that can be wrung from inside the system. Because it's an article of faith that you cannot say the word "taxes" in Washington, as a result poor people who can't afford health insurance may pay the price for deals with Big Pharma, a kind of tax on the lower classes.

I hope avoiding the Harry and Louise ads were worth it. Fortunately, no groups on the right managed to make any headway attacking the overall plan.

I'm sorry, "death panels"? Never heard of it.

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