PhRMA v. Obama: Battle Lines Drawn

Last Updated Nov 14, 2008 2:36 PM EST

2993189541_7e5ae8f949.jpgBefore President Obama is even sworn in, the battle lines between PhRMA and the healthcare reformers are already being drawn. The drugmaker's lobbyist group is drawing up a campaign to defeat Obama's healthcare reform ideas even before he has actually proposed any. PhRMA is preparing:
a multimillion-dollar public relations campaign to tout the importance of free-market health care and undercut an expected push by the Obama administration for price controls of prescription drugs. The effort, which will include a national television commercial [is] scheduled to begin airing next week.
Obviously, with the number of uninsured Americans at an all-time high and with healthcare costs still rising, that's proof that the free-market is functioning perfectly. As Bush would say, "Good job, Pharmie!" (Obama is actually pro-reimportation.)

Over on the other side, Sen. Max Baucus is already trying to get the reform ball rolling with a white paper. It promises:

reforms on three overriding principle: meaningful coverage for all Americans; insistence that any coverage expansion be coupled with higher quality care and cost savings over time; and an "absolute commitment" to eliminate waste and overpayments. The Baucus plan would make health coverage immediately available for Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 years old and begin a phase-out of the two year wait for Medicare coverage for individuals with disabilities. The plan would also strengthen the role of primary care - a theme Baucus hit on multiple times during his remarks-and chronic care management, and increase investments in comparative effectiveness research and health IT infrastructure.
"Eliminating waste and overpayments" will be the key weakness in PhRMA's battle against any Obama plan, because inserting as much waste and overpayment into the system as possible has been PhRMA's strategy from the start. That's why PhRMA lobbied to make sure that Americans aren't allowed to buy drugs from Canada, and why Medicare is forbidden from using its purchasing might to bargain down the price of drugs.

Here's one other item from In Vivo about pharma-directed overpayments: Nexium is the fourth-largest drug in terms of Medicare Part D costs, even though it is almost identical -- and some say actually identical -- to OTC and generic Prilosec.

Photo by Flickr user zyrcster, CC.