Big Pharma Loses One — for Now

Although it is far from becoming law, and Big Pharma is powerful enough to bend the new Democratic majority to its will, the legislation does require the government to negotiate for lower drug prices for Medicare recipients — just as the government uses its clout to negotiate lower prices from any contractor.

Anyone watching the House floor debate would have to acknowledge there are some decent arguments on the drug industry side — evidence that since the Medicare drug benefit took effect last year, costs were lower than anticipated and a large majority of recipients seem happy with the program.

But many older Americans remain confused by the complex provisions that could leave them in a “doughnut hole” of financial ruin, and how ever many of them save money, it is the Republican Party auxiliary known as the pharmaceutical industry that stood to reap the most by barring discount pricing. The result hurt seniors, but it hurt Republicans even more last November.

The arguments against fixing the 2003 law were based on the putatively negative effects on the “free market” of any government interference in pricing drugs.

But it is that “heavy hand” of government that invests about $30 billion a year in research that the drug industry uses to create and market its products, raking in the profits that are, for sure, plowed back into research — with plenty left over to fertilize the campaign treasuries of members of Congress.

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