Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Sen. Cruz Is Right About Big Pharma’s Prescription Drug Regulations

I couldn’t be happier to see Sen. Ted Cruz fighting new regulations that would raise the cost of prescription drugs in Texas if implanted.

Although the Lone Star State spends more on prescription drugs than any other, Big Pharma lobbyists are demanding legislators take action to restrict Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs), entities that health plans hire to obtain bulk pricing discounts for healthcare and to negotiate for the inclusion of cheaper generic drugs within their health plans.

Anyone who has been to Sam’s Club or Costco know that bulk purchasing enables consumers to save significant sums, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that former President Trump’s chief economic adviser found that PBMs save society billions. Why then, is Big Pharma pushing Congress to pass a bill, the PBM Transparency Act, that would make it more difficult for PBMs to do their jobs?

Simple: the major drug companies are willing to do anything to increase their bottom lines — and some members of Congress (thanks to handsome campaign donations) have become too accommodating in their requests.

Congressional investigations, the release of the so-called Twitter files, and the use of discovery on a case currently before the Supreme Court found dozens of examples where officials from the government, including some government bureaucrats, worked with pharma companies to censor divergent views about the vaccine, helping the drugmakers to increase their bottom lines by undercutting Texans’ medical freedom. 

That wasn’t the only time, either. Lee Fang, a journalist for The Intercept, discovered documents showing that the pharmaceutical industry lobbied social media companies to help craft its “vaccine misinformation” policy and censor information about the availability of low-cost generic vaccines to push the cost of Texans’ drugs up even higher.

The drugmakers’ goal is clear: to make as much money as possible. 

They just raised the price of over 900 brand-name drugs this year, including the diabetes drug Ozempic, which a March Yale study found now costs over $900 more than the $5 it costs to make.

Congress passing regulations on PBMs will only make this healthcare price inflation worse.

As Sen. Cruz said, “the FTC has previously conducted robust economic analysis of PBMs and found that PBMs benefit consumers by lowering drug prices.” He continued by underscoring how they found regulations similar to those proposed by Congress’ PBM bill “could increase prices on consumers’ drug and health plans. Texas needs them now more than ever, no matter what Big Pharma might say. 

Make no mistake: if the drugmakers get their way, Texans will pay — not only will their wallets but their health.

AARP research found that 42 percent of Texans ages 19 to 64 stopped taking medication or skipped doses due to cost. If Congress makes it harder for PBMs to secure drug discounts, that number will only increase. 

It’s time for members to do the right thing. It’s time for them to stand up to the pharmaceutical and say that their constituents’ healthcare well-beings don’t have a price. 

I hope Sen. John Cornyn and more of my representatives will follow Sen. Cruz by doing exactly this in the weeks to come.

Matt Mackowiak is the president of Austin, TX-based Potomac Strategy Group and a former press secretary to two U.S. Senators.