WASHINGTON (AP) — As ominous music plays in the background, the narrator of a radio ad echoes objections from drugmakers by warning that a Trump administration proposal to apply international pricing to certain Medicare drugs would be a nightmare for seniors.
The one-minute spot is the handiwork of the Alliance for Patient Access, a nonprofit group that gives off a consumer-friendly vibe yet is bankrolled by the powerful pharmaceutical industry. It’s also closely aligned with a Washington lobbying and public relations firm, Woodberry Associates, whose president, Brian Kennedy, is the nonprofit’s executive director.
As Congress and the Trump administration aim to lower prescription drug costs, outside groups like the Alliance for Patient Access are seeking to sway the outcome. But not all of these organizations are clear about who they actually represent. Their names can obscure the source of the message and they’re cagey about where they get their funding.
Yet even a small degree of separation can be valuable for pharmaceutical companies at a time when the industry faces stiff political headwinds. Drug prices may provide a rare bipartisan issue on which Congress and the White House could collaborate on legislation ahead of the 2020 elections. In a prelude of sorts, the Senate Finance Committee last month grilled drug company executives over the cost of their products.
Anger is bubbling up from their constituents. A February poll by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation found nearly one in four Americans taking prescription drugs have difficultly affording their medications. Although majorities of the public trust pharmaceutical companies to develop new and effective drugs, only 25 percent trust them to price their products fairly — down from 41 percent in 2008.
Susan Hepworth, a spokeswoman for the Alliance and Woodberry, described the nonprofit as “a national network of physicians that advocates for patient access to the medicines they prescribe.”
Through the Alliance, she said, doctors “can share their perspectives about the benefits of respecting the physician-patient relationship, clinical decision making and personalized, patient-centered health care.” It’s no surprise, Hepworth said, that the group’s backers include companies that manufacture medicines.
She declined to answer questions about the radio ad. The one-minute spot singles out for criticism a Trump administration proposal to gradually shift Medicare payments for drugs administered in doctors’ offices to a level based on international prices.
Prices in other countries are lower because governments directly negotiate with manufacturers. But drugmakers have assailed the Trump plan, arguing it smacks of government price-setting and would lead to socialized health care.
The Alliance’s radio spot makes the same argument, using nearly identical language. Under the Trump…