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Sunday, April 8, 2018

Drug Lobbying by Proxy

 Many posts have explained that economic interest groups use contributions to gain political allies.

Emily Kopp and Sydney Lupkin and Elizabeth Lucas report at Kaiser Health News:
Pharmaceutical companies gave at least $116 million to patient advocacy groups in a single year, reveals a new database logging 12,000 donations from large publicly traded drugmakers to such organizations.

Even as these patient groups grow in number and political influence, their funding and their relationships to drugmakers are little understood. Unlike payments to doctors and lobbying expenses, companies do not have to report payments to the groups.

The database, called “Pre$cription for Power,” shows that donations to patient advocacy groups tallied for 2015—the most recent full year in which documents required by the Internal Revenue Service were available—dwarfed the total amount the companies spent on federal lobbying. The 14 companies that contributed $116 million to patient groups reported only about $63 million in lobbying activities that same year.

Though their primary missions are to focus attention on the needs of patients with a particular disease—such as arthritis, heart disease, or various cancers—some groups effectively supplement the work lobbyists perform, providing patients to testify on Capitol Hill and organizing letter-writing and social media campaigns that are beneficial to pharmaceutical companies. 
At STAT, Lev Facher writes about the Addiction Policy Forum:
The vast majority of the group’s funding comes from pharmaceutical companies, some of whose executives sit on its advisory board. Overshadowed by APF’s funding sources, however, is a more striking connection: Until last fall, Nickel was concurrently working as a lobbyist for Alkermes, the maker of a drug used to treat opioid addiction, while heading the nonprofit.
In interviews with STAT, Nickel brushed off concerns about her work with Alkermes and her group’s multimillion-dollar partnership with PhRMA, the drug industry lobbying group, calling those reservations “an old way of thinking.”
“We need to be collaborating with industry, companies that have R&D budgets,” Nickel said. “The folks that cure diseases need to be at the table with us, so I stand by this partnership. I stand by the decision.”
Whatever legislation Congress passes to deal with the opioid crisis — key Republicans in the House hope for a vote prior to Memorial Day — much of the law is likely to focus on access to medication-assisted treatment.
The draft legislation now before Congress includes a provision requiring many providers of addiction treatment receiving federal grants to ensure access to all FDA-approved forms of medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder.